The Alvis Geode Mine

(St. Francisville #2)

This mine is located one mile up from the Des Moines river in a tributary called Weaver Branch. Just up from this mine is the old Waterman mine (St Francisville mine) where some of the best geodes ever found were dug. Randy Alvis, the owner of the mine with his wife Kathy, is not a geologist. But he likes playing in the mud and knows how to dig big holes with his track hoe. Kathy had heard about Sinotte and Waterman finding geodes just up from her property so she told Randy to take his big toy down by the creek and dig around. As though he knew what he was doing, Randy found the geode exposure and the St Francisville Number Two mine was born.

This exposure of the lower Warsaw is on a slope not in a bluff, so the overburden is removed from the top of the geodes so they can be mined from their tops. This is the only way to get the geodes out of that enduring shale without busting them in half. During Geode Fest is the best time to dig here as Randy does extensive removal of the overburden at that time. If you can't make Geode Fest, geodes can still be dug. Dig down at the foot of the small quarry wall and dig down until you see the vein of geodes. Follow the vein, removing the overburden as you go. Its not easy, but the geodes are there.

I first dug here during Geode Fest 2007. A lot of the geodes dug in the early years of this mine were very big and I couldn't afford to pay for all those weighty rocks as I was/am poor. I was enjoying all the other locations opened up exclusively for the festival with smaller geodes and I didn't pay this mine much attention... Until I dug up one large, very hollow twelve inch geode that was full of giant calcite crystals. A truly marvelous specimen worth way more than the twenty five dollars I spent for it. When I had it cracked on Sunday (the last morning of Geode Fest) and saw the big calcites, I made my way back to the mine, Monday after the festival was over, and dug all I could before my back made me quit.

The next two Geode Fests at this mine were spent filling buckets and getting to know this pocket of quartz geodes with the uncommonly big calcite crystals. But it was the Geode Fest 2010 excavation that really blew me away. I had gotten to know Randy by this time and he was letting me hang out while he worked removing the overburden on the Thursday before the festival started. He was using a bulldozer to scrape off the overburden when the tops of a large pocket of three to eight inch geodes appeared. This pocket was twenty feet long and ten feet wide, disappearing under the unexcavated overburden.

I got to the Geode Fest early Friday morning so I could be first in the vehicle line headed out to this mine (a trick I learned at the Madrid Oregon Pow Wow). As it turned out I was third in the vehicle line, but when we parked at the mine, I grabbed my tools and ran from my truck to the pocket of geodes so I had a good spot to dig. This was a big pocket so everyone dug geodes that day. The rockhounds digging next to me were chatty and it wasn't long until we were buddies. A gentleman and his young daughter were to my right and we took turns digging and helping each other chisel out the big ones. At the end of the day the three of us managed to dig three buckets full of hollow geodes apiece... a really good day.

When we got back to the Geode Fest that evening the daughter came to me to help her pick out a big geode to crack as her father would only pay to have one cracked. I happen to have a talent for picking out the best geodes... so we poured out all of their buckets of geodes and I lifted each one until the best of the dig was found. It was a very hollow eight inch well formed geode that I thought should have some of those big calcite crystals this mine was famous for. She grabbed the geode and headed off to get in line at one of the cracking stations. A few minutes later I heard a loud commotion coming from that area. As I was making my way to see what the fuss was about, here came the daughter hunting for me... to show the dew drop diamond, with a big calcite crystal, she just had cracked. Mercy day!!! 'One in ten thousand' I thought as I congratulated her. This was the best geode cracked at the 2010 festival. I felt privileged just to have held it. What a geode!

This geode was not the only dew drop diamond found in this pocket as two more (of lesser quality) of these rare specimens were cracked at Geode Fest 2010... and I found a nice one in 2012. As the mine progresses into the slope, more and more overburden will have to be removed to expose the south side of this pocket. I am sure that this will be achieved and more of the dew drops will be found.

I am counting on Randy to dig me up another dew drop, just as he will get tired of my constant nagging to fire up that track hoe.

Click to Enlarge

Calcite crystals on Quartz. This is a ten inch geode with the big calcites that are common in the geodes at the Alvis mine.

Dew drop diamond with pyrite. This is half of a nice geode I dug at the Alvis mine at Geode Fest 2012. The camera never shows the sparkle of this type of geode and you must see these in your hand, in the sun, to really appreciate. The diamonds are clear in this disk shaped geode, but a deep smokey dew drop diamond was found at this mine last year... so both types are here.