A story by John Gaumer
My father, Al, and I made our way to Bruneau Canyon in Idaho to look for jasper. Along the way we passed a deep fenced-off crater that had been created by an explosion set off by the government. The government had been testing new explosives that could be used to move earth if ever a canal had to be built to replace the Panama Canal. We stopped and examined the deep cone, and talked to the caretaker whose job it was to see that the curious didn’t end up at the bottom of the deep pit. After examining this curiosity, we headed to the canyon’s rim, parked and headed down.
We split up to prospect among the outcroppings of volcanic rock for the brown jasper nodules. I had noted a few small brown veins of jasper but nothing of great interest when I heard my father call from several hundred yards away. After making my way over to him, he told me to watch as he dug down on a seam of jasper. It expanded to reveal a brown jasper nodule with tan orbs.
We set about to work in the area with the jackhammer to drill and set our dynamite charges.
Though we were low on dynamite because we had recently been up to Eagle, Idaho to dig for Willow Creek jasper, we worked down into the deposit and had recovered some nice material before we ran out of dynamite. In the bedrock at our feet, we could see numerous nice jasper nodules embedded in the rock, but without explosives we were done for the day.
At this time, I sensed a presence and looking about I saw the caretaker from the pit watching us from the canyon’s rim. To protect our ﬁnd, we piled a good quantity of rock into the dig before heading up to the truck. We drove into Bruneau to inquire about dynamite and were directed to Mountain Home, Idaho. Unfortunately, they were out of dynamite and it would be a week’s wait to resupply. The closest source was Boise so we decided to head home and make another trip back soon.
We did return in about a month with a fresh case of dynamite to continue to work that find. Upon arrival, we found that someone had worked that deposit and had mined out those nodules that had been literally lying just beneath our feet. We were pretty disappointed but went to work against the back wall of the pit. The digging was difficult into the cliff face and the nodules were much more scarce. We had only worked a short while before a heavy snow began to fall and it was starting to stick on the ground. We were worried a bit about the rough road and slick rock we had to cross, so we decided to head out before we got stuck.
Years later the Careys brought in a bulldozer and hired some high school kids to pick up jasper behind the dozer as it mined the slope. They crisscrossed back and forth and worked the entire slope. After that, it looked like it’d been bomb blasted. To dig, one had to get in next to the large rock outcroppings to look for jasper that had been missed by the dozer’s path. The last time I was there, I was working a crevice with my father between two large rocks in a cramped three foot trench. At the bottom, I found a perfect little four-inch stalactite with well deﬁned brownish plumes in the center of translucent white agate.