January 30, 2018

Wiggins Fork - Memorials

This is another post on the Wiggins Fork rock collecting area north of Dubois Wyoming. All the previous posts can be seen in order on our website at https://thegemshop.com/…/n…/wiggins-fork-rams-horn-a-history.

Wiggins Fork seems to have a particular attraction for rockhound families. Perhaps that is because there are so many recreational activities or pursuits possible here. If you are not interested in collecting rocks you can fish, hike, photograph, hunt for waterfalls, backpack, or just read a book beside the campfire. I have seen many family gatherings other than ourselves as well as larger group gatherings take place in the area. (See story by Larry French and his brother Dan French, in the comments and replies on the post Wiggins Fork Sept. 21, 2017).

My parents accompanied my wife and I and our two daughters to Double Cabin Campground many times. Brothers, and sisters from both sides of the family often arranged their vacations to be in the area at the same time. Cousins who see each other only once a year were everywhere. Groups of family members would plan trips into the wilderness to see hidden waterfalls on the side Creeks that flow into Frontier Creek. Younger kids would build forts in the woods near Camp. More experienced hikers would plan backpacking trips to Snow Lake, Six-Mile Creek, or Green Lake. (Very few people on earth have seen or felt the cold waters of Snow Lake. It is on top of the mountains between Frontier and Wiggins creeks at 11,400ft in elevation.) All of this activity is centered around the rock collecting hobby.

My father was a fisherman. It did not matter if he was trolling for northerns, waiting in an anchored boat until 1 a.m. in the morning for the croppies to start biting, or sneaking up on trout in a fast-moving mountain stream - he loved fishing. He tried to interest me in the sport by taking me on several fishing adventures but when he accidentally got me bitten by the rock collecting bug at age 12, it was all over for me. All I wanted to do was hunt rocks. Rocks and fish made there way to camp and our family experienced many fresh trout meals cooked over the campfire at Double Cabin Campground. One year in particular we had fresh trout for breakfast every morning.

After my father died it was decided to place some of his ashes at Gordon's Cave, high above Burnt Creek. This was the cave that he and my daughter found loaded with Agate limb casts. (see previous post). Some of my father's ashes were placed on a rock in front of Gordon's cave in the summer after his death.
Every year since, the snow that melts in the spring at Gordon's cave takes a few of my father's ashes and flows over the cliff and down into Burnt Creek. The waters of Burn Creek flow into Wiggins Creek less than a mile away. Wiggins Creek enters the Wind River about 6 miles below Dubois Wyoming. The Wind River moves both fast and slow through Wyoming until it cascades down one of the most beautiful drivable canyons in the West. At the bottom of the canyon it mixes with the hot waters of Thermopolis. Here the name of the river changes and it becomes the Bighorn River. The Bighorn River works its way north into Montana and flows into the Yellowstone River. These waters flow over all those Montana agates and eventually enter the Missouri River in North Dakota. The Missouri River crosses North Dakota, South Dakota, separates Nebraska from Iowa, crosses Missouri, and joins the Mississippi River at St. Louis. These waters join waters that have come from as far away as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania and together they flow into the Gulf of Mexico and the ocean itself.

Part of my father will see all the fish in these rivers and then be able to explore the ocean as well.

This past summer a hike was organized to the first waterfall at 9 Falls Creek. Some of our group had never been there and it is the tallest waterfall in the area. I should say that 9 Falls Creek is not an official name. There is no name given to this Creek on the Snow Lake Topographical Map. I had been told by several hunters many years ago that there were nine waterfalls on this Creek before you arrived in the mountain valley below the mountain peaks to the West. So this Creek is known to us and several others as 9 Falls Creek. The creek is about a two-mile hike up Frontier Creek and is the second drainage up river from the campground that flows into Frontier Creek from the West. It is almost a mile from Frontier Creek up 9 Falls Creek to the waterfall. By the way, petrified wood can be found in this creek but it is quite rare.

Upon arriving at the waterfall and enjoying its Splendor someone in our group noticed a small object on the large Rock in the creek just below the waterfall. This rock has the position of being the center of many photographs of people with the waterfall in the background. Inscribed on the small object were the following words:
“ Greetings Grammy from the mountains above double Cabin, Wyoming. Have the piece of nature. Love Holly.”
Another tribute to a deceased person in a beautiful place. If two completely independent and unknown families can create memorials to past loved ones in the same area, I wonder how many others have done the same.

I do not know who Holly is, or if her grandmother was a rockhound, or if Holly is a rockhound. I do know that the rock collecting area known as Wiggins Fork has an enduring effect on the people who collect there. I also know that Holly would not have known of this place if she or someone in her family was not a rock collector. There are no trails, no signs, or directions on how to find this place. It is completely invisible to anyone hiking, backpacking, or riding horses on the cut Trails of Frontier Creek. 
When the time came for us to leave and start our return trip to Double Cabin Campground we said a little prayer for Holly's grandmother and left the tiny memorial where we found it. I hope that Holly is able to read this one day and know that other complete strangers also wish the “Peace of nature” for her grandmother.

           

January 22, 2018

Wiggins Fork & Rams Horn: A History

These are a collection of Facebook posts, Gene posted about the history fo Wiggins Fork and Rams Horn. This is currently an ongoing project and will continue to be updated. We welcome anyone with stories about their time at these locations. Please comment on this post or send your stories to webmaster@thegemshop.com

April 17, 2015

Wiggins Fork green moss agate is found in seams but more often as limb casts. It looks very similar to some of the green moss agate posted by Diana Grady George found in the Cadys. The Wiggins Fork limb casts are found at about the 9,000 ft. level in the mountains north of Dubois, Wyoming.

       

July 20, 2015

This stone is a Wiggins Fork Moss Agate Laminate. The agate used is part of a limb cast I found near the head waters of Burn Creek, which enters Wiggins Fork Creek in the center of the photograph below. I will be back there in a couple of weeks looking for more. The black basalt used for the backing was found in a small creek near Rockville, OR.

   

 

September 2, 2017

WIGGINS FORK

There are a few rock collecting areas in the country that endear themselves to the people who visit them. None more so than the area known as Wiggins Fork. I have just returned from there and this was the 45th year in a row that I have collected in this area. This post, I hope explains some of the rockhound attraction of the area, encourages others to write about their collecting experiences there, and entices other adventuresome rockhounds to visit.
I first heard about this area, 27 miles north of Dubois Wyoming, by reading two paragraphs in a book titled the “Agates of North America” published in 1966. I quote those two paragraphs here.

“Wiggins Fork Wood
High in the beautiful but forbidding mountain county near Dubois Wyoming is a remarkable fossil Forest. Here volcanic ash from tertiary times buried vast forests which are now being eroded out to the delight of venturesome rockhounds. Imagine, if you can, a country so rough that even Jeep and horseback can barely get you to the right spot; a country where snowstorms in July are not uncommon: where steep canyons and towering cliffs reveal Agate limb casts and agatized wood with amethyst. If you can picture this you can picture Wiggins Fork. My husband Albert spent one fourth of July snowbound in this area but the bag of rock he returned with was ample compensation. ….The fine Iris Agate, the banded chalcedony wood casts, the green moss--are all virtually flawless. The agatized seeds, katzkins, and cones of this region are unsurpassed.”

After reading that, I decided to see the area for myself. That was 1972. I didn't find any good rock the first time I was there but the area was so beautiful I had to go back. 
At the end of the 27 mile dirt road heading north out of Dubois is a campground. It is called Double Cabin campground and is the gateway to the area. It is located on the west side of Frontier Creek just above the confluence of Wiggens and Frontier Creeks. The altitude here is about 8100 ft.
This area has been a rock collecting area for about 80 years. Every good rock found here has a story behind it and most of those stories occurred before there was an internet. I think it would be beneficial if some of those stories we're told to a larger audience.

         

September 21, 2017

“What can be found at Wiggins Fork? “, was asked in a previous post. Chris Calantine, Erik Martinez, John Hubbart. Wiggins Fork is known for its beautiful petrified wood and agate limb casts. But other vein agates are also scattered throughout the mountains. Below is a general overview of what can be found here.

PETRIFIED WOOD. 
The Petrified Wood found in the Wiggins Fork area was formed in what is now the 10,000 ft level of the surrounding mountains. Gigantic pine trees were buried upright and petrified. These trees have been eroding out of the mountains and into the river gravels of Frontier and Emerald creeks. Both of these creeks flow into Wiggins Creek. Some of the Petrified logs can be seen in the rock cliffs above Frontier Creek about 8 Miles up River from Double Cabin Campground. There is an old story told about an upright petrified log up Frontier Creek that is big enough for 18 people to sit around its base and eat lunch. Pieces of petrified wood can be found in the river gravels of these creeks and in Wiggins Creek all the way to the Wind River and beyond.

AGATE LIMB CASTS
Wiggins Fork is also known for agate limb casts or agate replacements of wood. The agate replacement can be of different types of agate. Hollow crystal lined casts, iris agate casts, green moss agate casts, water-level banded agate casts, tube agate casts and Amethyst lined casts are all found here. The size ranges from the smallest agatized twigs to very large logs. I know the location of a large hollow upright cast you can stand in. 
Not only can you find agate cast of wood but of other plant life as well. The finest agatized pine cones are found here. Different agatized berries and seeds have also been found. The agatized casts are found in place at lower elevations than the Petrified Wood. Most are found at about the 9,000 foot level in the mountains but the elevation of the deposits varies considerably in different locations. Most of the casts are found on the first three creeks that flow into Wiggins Creek - namely Burn Creek, Fire Creek and Snow Creek. However, they can be found in many other locations in the general area.

VEIN AGATE
Veins of agate occur throughout the Mountains. Most are thin but some are thick enough to be desirable and contain different kinds of agate. Very fine green moss agate can be found on Burn Creek and other places. There is some natural black agate veins on Fire Creek. Jasper veins are also present. There are some large spotted Jasper veins on Snow Creek and some orange Jasper veins on Burn Creek. Pieces of all of these veins have been eroding down the creeks for centuries and can be found in the river gravels for miles down Wiggins Creek.

                           

December 29, 2017

WIGGINS FORK - GORDON’S CAVE

This is another post about the rock collecting area known as “Wiggins Fork”, north of Dubois, Wyoming. The content is centered around “ There are a few rock collecting areas in the country that endear themselves to the people who visit them. None more so than the area known as Wiggins Fork.”

GORDON'S CAVE
Burn Creek was a popular area to collect limb casts long before I visited the area in the 70’s. Burn Creek is the first major drainage to flow into Wiggins Creek from the south east upriver from the campground, and was named after a fire that went through the area in 1953. It is about a 1 1/2 mile hike from Double Cabin Campground, mostly on ‘cut rail’, but it is necessary to cross both Frontier and Wiggins Creeks to get there.
Agate casts of all sizes with clear agate, banded Agate, water level agate, and fine green moss agate have all been found in the gravel deposits of this Creek. Orange jasper and amethyst lined cast have been found also along with a very small amount of petrified wood. One might ask how can an area that has been hunted since the early 50’s still yield specimens in the late 70’s let alone today? This is part of the magic of rock collecting at Wiggins Fork. These are fast eroding mountains and depending on the amount of snow each year and the speed of the melt in the spring the river gravels get turned over. New River channels are created and old gravel is exposed. Because of the remoteness, vastness, altitude, and difficulty of the terrain there are many areas that have not been looked at. Thus, the discovery of Gordon's cave in 1979.

Several years before 1979 and Old Man (compared to me at the time) showed me the area where the green moss Agate casts come from high in the cliffs on the northside of Burn Creek. The view from up there was breathtaking. I could see the campground 1 1/2 miles away, the Wind River mountains 50 miles away, and the vastness of the cliffs, gullies, and rock slopes on the south side of the canyon. I wanted to look over there someday and that day came a few years later. 
Walking up Burn creek and looking for a place to climb out on the south side, I could not find one. The southside of Burnt Creek is much steeper and forbidding then the north side. I followed the creek all the way up to the waterfall where the canyon narrowed to vertical cliffs. A short distance below the waterfall was a climbable bank hidden by trees that angled up to within 4 feet of the top of the vertical wall. I climbed out to the steep slope above and started making my way up the right side of a small drainage that was wet but did not have water. There were signs of Agate everywhere. It soon became too steep, and I found a way to get across to the other side of the small drainage where the terrain going up looked passable. As I did so, I saw something greenish at the bottom of the cliff above me (most Agate casts found here have a greenish outside). After I got closer I could see it was a nice cast. It was just sitting there like someone placed it on the ground. It was at the bottom of a vertical Cliff maybe 15 feet high on a slope too steep to stand on. It was a little over a foot long 10 in in diameter had a small crystalline hollow center and weighed a little over 20 lb. I left it there. There was no way I could carry it and get it down the way I had come up.

Back at Camp a plan was conceived to approach the area along the ridge above the cliffs to avoid the rather dangerous climbing and try to get the cast with a rope from the top. My father and oldest daughter (8 years old) wanted to go on this hike. Coincidentally the man who showed me where the green moss Agate casts were on the Northside of Burn Creek years ago was in the campground looking for someone to hike with. I asked him if he would like to go along and help and the next day the four of us headed up the ridge on the southside of Burnt Creek through the trees and over the top of the cliffs. When we arrived at the area above the cast my dad and daughter found a nice place to rest next to the drainage I had followed up from below the previous day. My partner and I went to the cliff and lowered the rope. I walked the ridge up River until I found a way down to the bottom of the cliff, worked my way back to the cast, and tied the Rope through the hollow cast. I climbed back up and the two of us pulled the cast up.The whole process took about an hour. We proudly carried the cast back to where we left my father and 8 year old daughter. My dad was lying comfortably on the rocks with a smirk on his face like he would burst out laughing any minute. My daughter was sitting next to him smiling but saying nothing. It took me several seconds to see it. Between them was a whole pile of beautiful casts - about 30 of them.

They had rested a while, decided to look around a little, followed the drainage up to a small cave and picked up complete agate casts that were laying all over the ground in the bottom of the cave. I named the area Gordon’s Cave after my father.

Burn Creek had been hunted for agate casts for at least 25 years before my Father found the cave. No one had ever looked for casts here before.