Mineral resources of South Mountain and Frederick Valley, Pennsylvania and Maryland

Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Self-Guided Trips | 0 comments

Stop 1. Specialty Granules Corporation, Charmain Road, Blue Ridge Summit, Blue Ridge Summit, PA Geologic Formation: Catoctin of Precambrian age Rock type(s): Metabasalt (greenish) and metarhyolite (reddish) (volcanic) We are grateful and excited about presenting this stop to you. Thank you goes out to Greg Oliver and Charlie Poulson of Specialty Granules for all of the pre-fieldtrip planning and our tour today. They have volunteered to come to the operation to host our tour and their assistance is greatly appreciated. It is hoped that you will see how valuable quarries are, appreciate how technology is used in producing their finished products and realize how many regulations such an operation as Specialty Granules has to follow from the local to federal levels of government. Below are highlights of this operation: Acreage Owned: Over 700 acres Duration: Have been here for 90 years Crushing and screening: Metabasalt is screened from 1.5” to granules Products Producing: Roofing granules in 16 different colors for mostly GAF, Tamaco and Elk Process: Granules are colored and fired. Also produced are unfired, uncolored granules that do not specs. Amount: 600,000 tons shipped of metabasalt granules Transportation: 80% of products are moved by trucks; 20% by railroad Employees: 140 with an average length of service of 17 years Quarry Depth: Current quarry is permitted to 8 levels (approximately 400 feet) Old quarry was down 7 levels (350 feet) but has been back-filled about 250 feet Conveyors: Have 0.75 miles of conveyors to transport rock to different plants and processes Undersized: Have about 50% of the material (600,000-700,000 tons) which is recycled and reclaimed back into quarry Blasting: Once every 7 – 10 days. Have 2 portable seismographs that are deployed out to closest Residences to monitor ground shaking. Problems: The operation often encounters the metarhyolite which no use for is known as this time. Groundwater: No issues since the bedrock is non-permeable and had no porosity Property Border: A beam surrounds the entire border, plainly marking a “Do Not Enter” area. Wildlife: Actual the property can be viewed as a wildlife refuge. Whitetail deer, turkey, bear, coyote, fox, raccoons and birds love this habitat. Other: Have a pond to settle out sediment before entering back into the watershed. Water re-entering watershed is probably cleaner than stream water. Have a on-site weather station to monitor conditions, i.e. for blasting. Geology: Metabasalt and metarhyolite are both igneous rocks that originated from lava. The word” meta” has been placed in front of each rock name because the rocks have undergone metamorphism through crustal plate collisions. Rhyolite forms from volcanic activity on continental crust and basalt is the major component of oceanic crust. These rocks originated as a result of the breakup of an ancient supercontinent known as Rodinia that split apart starting about 700 million years ago. Later, a collision with a chain of volcanic islands and the coming together of Africa and North America caused heat and pressure, slightly altering the rocks. On the tour, we will try to show an example of folding and faulting in the rock.

Specialty Granules quarry

Specialty Granules quarry

Point of Interest A Native Copper Mines in South Mountain Location: From near Mt. Hope southward to Pa. Rte. 16, mostly associated with Copper Run. Once belonging to the P. H. Glatfelter Company of Spring Grove, PA as one of their tree farms, many of the mines are today situated within the Michaux State Forest. Several mines were known on the property of Specialty Granules as well as near the “Underground Pentagon.” The first copper operation was reportedly opened in 1833 and became one of the country’s leading copper districts in the late 1800’s. The last major mining operations shutdown in the 1920’s. Occasional attempts and rumors to start new mining continued into the 1960’s. The area became known to “rockhounders” after several reports were published by geologists in the early 1900’s. The district was also publicized in the “Mineral Collecting of Pennsylvania” published in 1976 by the Pennsylvania Geological Survey. An assortment of minerals, including native copper, have been found on the mine dumps. It was reported that native copper was found during the construction of the “Underground Pentagon.” Specialty Granules also finds native copper during quarrying. Native copper is common within volcanic rocks. The Keweenawan copper deposits in Michigan is geologically similar to South Mountain. Most of the copper is found within the metabasalt and quartz veins associated with this rock. The green color of the metabasalt is not from the copper, but rather epidote and chlorite. The copper was formed from deep groundwater containing the native element, which leached toward the surface rocks undergoing hydration. Weathering of the surface rock created secondary minerals such as malachite, azurite and cuprite. The quartz veins were formed in similar fashion where silica and copper ions crystallized from hot groundwater caused by metamorphism. The groundwater found it’s way into cracks within the metabasalt, cooled and formed the copper-bearing veins. For a detailed description on the history of this copper district, go to http://www.pennminerals.com/Chronicles2.htm.

Jeri and Roxann at the Reed Hill copper mine near Mt. Hope

Jeri and Roxann at the Reed Hill copper mine near Mt. Hope

Point of Interest B Devil’s Race Course, Fort Richtie Road, Franklin County Location: Parking area is located on the west side of Ritchie Road about 0.75 mile north of the intersection of Md. Rte. 491 (Raven Rock Road). Although there is a similar occurrence with the same name just northwest of Specialty Granules, we are going to drive past this Maryland occurrence. Although time does not permit us to stop, please come back and visit this geologic feature. The Devil’s Race Course is known as a boulder field composed of boulders of the Weverton quartzite. The feature is approximately 0.70 mile long and 80-130 feet wide. The boulder field was formed by intense weathering and erosion during the “Ice Age.” These boulders were once part of large outcrops of the Cambrian-age quartzite (metamorphosed sandstone) which got broken into boulders and brought down the valley. A stream can still be heard running under the boulders.

Stop 2. Panning for Gold East Branch of Antietam Creek (need permission) Washington County Solid Waste and Recycling, Bikle Road in Smithsburg, MD. The art of panning for gold has intrigued humans for many years. Since the discovery of gold near Charlotte, NC in 1803 which led to the first commercial gold mine in the United States to the gold rush at Sutter’s Mill, CA, people always get excited when they hear “gold.” Although the author has never panned for gold in this vicinity, you can still learn the how’s and why’s in this short stop. The East Branch of the Antietam Creek flow off of the west side of South Mountain and actually originates within the Catoctin Formation metabasalt. Gold, like copper, forms within volcanic rocks. However, with my experience as well as other recreational panners, gold within South Mountain in Pennsylvania appears to be almost non-existent. It appears that gold within the Catoctin Formation is not very common. The area of our panning is underlain by the Cambrian Tomstown Formation, composed entirely of limestone. You will be instructed here on how to fill your gold pan with sediment and using the water, have the heavy minerals settle to the bottom of the pan and the other “junk” rock washed out of the pan. Heavy minerals would include magnetite (black sand), garnet and possibly gold. We will supply you with a small container if you would like to take your “heavy” minerals home for a souvenir or closer look. History of Gold in Maryland: The following is taken from “Gold in Maryland written by Karen Kuff (1987) published by the Maryland Geologic Survey. Maps and more information can be obtained at http://www.mgs.md.gov/esic/brochures/gold.html “Although gold was first reported in 1849 on Samuel Ellicott’s farm near Brookville, Montgomery County, no production was recorded. There are numerous versions of the first discovery of gold in the Potomac area. In 1861 during the Civil War, a Private McCleary (or McCarey) of the 71st Pennsylvania Regiment (or “1st California Volunteers”) was stationed outside of Washington, D.C. While encamped in the vicinity of Great Falls, he discovered gold. It is reported that the gold was found while washing skillets in a stream near McCleary’s hilltop camp overlooking the old Anglers Club. By 1867 the first shaft was sunk near the site of the Maryland Mine.” “Gold has been mined, panned or prospected intermittently since that date. Active mining ended prior to World War II in 1940 and the last recorded production from prospecting was 21 ounces found between 1950-51. The accompanying graph shows gold production in Maryland from 1868 to 1940. Prospecting continues even today. There is a surge of gold panning interest every few years, especially following an increase in the price of gold.“ “No great fortunes were made by Maryland gold miners. In 1890, Emmons stated that there was little likelihood of any new ventures that would result in sure riches for the operator.“ “On all of this belt …there is no record of any great mine the product of which can compare with the few enormously productive mines…in the west, and there seems to have been a very large proportion of disastrous failures among the many gold mining enterprises that have been undertaken here. There is some reason to assume that many of these failures have been due to ignorance and bad methods of working…the depth to which the rocks have been rotted and decomposed…has tended to make the surface showing underly rich; and has been an important factor in preventing systematic and successful mining in depth.” “Not all gold was obtained as ore from mine shafts; much was found by prospecting with trenches, or panning in local streams. The area around Great Falls has yielded most of the gold found in Maryland. Individuals hoping to find gold in Maryland are still looking in this area. Gold recovered by panning is mostly very fine grained but can range up to coarse sand size. Rarely, nuggets were found, some weighing as much as 4 ounces.”

Gold on top and magnetite on bottom of pan

Gold on top and magnetite on bottom of pan

Stop 3 George Washington State Park, Alt. Rte. 40 Boonesboro, MD Monument (Milk Bottle) composed of Weverton Quartzite If you have or never visited this first monument constructed in honor of our first President of the United States, it is always worth a visit. Each time you walk the short trail up to the monument you see something different. Closely examine the quartzite that composes the monument and enjoy the scenic view from the top of South Mountain. New landmarks are seen every time. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock, once a sandstone that has undergone heat and pressure associated with crustal collisions. The rock did not change chemically, but only texturally. Quartz is still the dominate mineral in the rock. Quartzite is coarser-grained due to the grains welding themselves together to make a larger quartz grain. The rock is hard (7.0 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale). Walking up the trail, float of quartzite are lying all over the ground. Examining the rock in the monument you can trace some indication of bedding. No fossils are present. Also, use your keen eye to pick up several quartzite blocks that appear to have 2 directions of bedding (layering) in the rock. This is known as cross-bedding which represents two directions of wave action at a beach when the rock was beginning to form as sandstone. The Weverton quartzite was used in many of the area’s historical buildings. Because of its durability and blocky shape, it is considered a long-lasting stone for buildings. Although rather hard to cut, the rock would be pretty polished after being cut. Ever wonder where the rock came from when you view a historic building? Chances are that the rock originated close by and hard by horse and wagon. For example, in the case of the Washington Monument, the rock came from right here. As we exit the park and return to Alt. Rte. 40, check out the church on the left side just before we travel down off of South Mountain. From the overlook, you are able to see at least 38 miles. Sidling Hill located on Interstate 68 west of Hancock appears as a notch in the mountain to the west. This section is known as the Valley and Ridge Providence or also called the Appalachian Mountains. This famous mountain range is composed of sedimentary rocks such as limestone, sandstone and shale ranging in age from Ordovician to Pennsylvanian. The wide valley below us is the Great Valley Section of the Valley and Ridge. The reason it is a valley is because the rock is mostly limestone and dolomite with some shale beds. Limestone and dolomite are rather soft, not holding up to the elements of weathering and erosion well, thus underlying valleys. Check out the framed photographs of the scenery on top of the tower which has landmarks indicated.

View looking west from Washington State Park

View looking west from Washington State Park

Point of Interest C Middletown Gneiss Exposure on MD Rte. 17 east of the Catoctin Creek, south of Middletown, MD With time restraints we are not able to show you this roadcut, but we have supplied enough samples for everyone to take home probably the oldest sample you have collected. This rock is known as gneiss, a metamorphic rock that illustrates to geologists just how intense the heat and pressure can become during a metamorphism event. This rock underlies much of the Middletown Valley, but exposures are rather obscure. The gneiss was originally a piece of a granitic crust making up a part of an ancient supercontinent known as Rodinia. The rock has been dated at about 1 billion years old. The rock was later involved in the pulling apart of Rodinia, the collision of a volcanic island arc to the east and the great African-North American collision to form Pangaea. Only if the rock could talk, what a story it could tell!! Gneiss is the highest grade metamorphic rock known. If the rock would have had more heat and/or pressure added, the material may have returned back into magma. When the rock was undergoing metamorphism, the white-colored minerals grouped themselves in a zone and the dark colored minerals gathered into their own zone, giving the gneiss a banded appearance. This rock is also believed to be the oldest rock found deep within South mountain and Catoctin Mountain in Maryland. Enjoy your gneiss!!

Point of Interest D Limonite (Goethite) from an area iron mine Again, because of time restraints, we will supply you with a sample of limonite, a.k.a. goethite. This ore was removed from a number of 19th century iron mines in this region and used in nearby furnaces to manufacture iron. We will see one of those furnaces at our last stop. Most of the mines were open pit, not requiring deep shafts to extract the ore. Much of the ore was laying loose in the clay which only required it to be washed and not removed from bedrock. Pick and shovel were about the only required tools. Horse and wagon removed the ore to its processing station or transported it to the furnace. Where blasting was required to dig into the bedrock, dynamite was not used commercially until 1890. Black powder was the main way to loosen the rock prior to 1980. Be careful, your hands will get dirty handling the limonite.

Stop 4 “Potomac Marble” exposure on Ballenger Creek Pike near the Substation 1.17 north of Points of Rock Road Rock Type: Breccia (Sedimentary) but known as a Fanglomerate due to its origin Age: Triassic Period With my experience of regional geology in southeastern Pennsylvania and now into Frederick County, Maryland, This is the nicest exposure of this rock that I know of. I read about this exposure in a book on Frederick County and Richard Gottfreid, professor geology at Frederick Community College suggested this stop. I have seen the fanglomerate quarried, sawed and polished from a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and wow, is it ever a pretty rock? Imagine that, seeing the large limestone angular boulders set in a reddish clay matrix, glued together. Yes, the rock has been used in several locations as an ornamental stone. The most famous is for pillars inside the National Capitol in Washington, D.C. I am sure there are smaller uses for the rock such as coffee table tops, chair molding in a room or around a fireplace. Just how did this rock form? The rock is considered Triassic in age. During this time, the area was located at about the same latitude as Miami, FL. The climate was tropical with abundant rainfall. It was also the time that the supercontinent Pangaea was beginning to split apart into the world as we know it. We are standing in what was a rift valley, similar to today’s example of the Red Sea. Land to our west was trying to go with North America and the crust to the east was going with Africa. The land here was sinking during the rifting and the valley walls were very steep. As streams flowed from the east into the rift valley, the streams had plenty of velocity coming down the valley slope and were able to carry larger rock fragments. Once the stream flowed out onto the valley floor, the stream’s velocity dramatically slowed and was forced to drop all of the boulders of limestone. As boulders were deposited on top of older boulder layers, as viewed from the air, the sediment appeared as a fan shape, thus known as an alluvial fan. In a dictionary, the rock would be classified as a breccia (rock containing angular fragments). Since we know the specific origin of the rock as an alluvial fan, the rock is known as a fanglomerate. Notice how the limestone is slightly more resistant to weathering and erosion than the reddish clay. The boulders are a little higher off of the surface. Let’s see who can find the largest limestone boulder!! It is hard to determine any bedding in the rock since the deposition was massive. The fanglomerate is estimated to be about 200 feet thick and exposures are localized. You will see the rock lying on the surface more often than in actual outcrops. Another factor is that these alluvial fans were not continuous along the end of a rift basin, but were spotty. It was reported by the Fredrick County School District website dealing with a geologic guide of the county that fanglomerate was encountered and dug out when the Pier 1 store along U.S. Route 40 was constructed in the last several years.

A pillar inside the National Capitol building in Washington, DC compsed of fanglomerate

A pillar inside the National Capitol building in Washington, DC compsed of fanglomerate

Stop 5 Vulcan Materials Quarry – Buckeystown Pike north of Buckeystown (need permission) Frederick formation – limestone – Cambrian age Grove formation – Limestone – Late Cambrian to Early Ordovican Our second quarry of the day is operated by Vulcan Materials Company. According to their website, here is an introduction to Vulcan Materials: “Vulcan Materials Company is the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates—primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel—and a major producer of aggregates-based construction materials including asphalt and ready-mixed concrete. Our coast-to-coast footprint and strategic distribution network align with and serve the nation’s growth centers. We are headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.” “Over 300 Vulcan sites produce construction aggregates, and about 200 facilities produce asphalt and/or concrete, which also consume aggregates. All of these are located in the U.S. except for our large quarry and marine terminal on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The products from this facility are primarily exported by ship to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where quality stone cannot be mined locally For more information on this company go to www.vulcanmaterials.com.” “What we produce is used in nearly all forms of construction. In particular, large quantities of aggregates are used to build and repair valuable infrastructure such as roads, bridges, waterworks and ports, and to construct buildings both residential and nonresidential, such as manufacturing facilities, office buildings, schools, hospitals and churches.” Here the limestone is used primarily for aggregate purposes, for asphalt roads, concrete roads, road base, lightweight block, rip-rap for slope stabilization, stone driveways, construction, etc. The basics of the operation is laying out blasts or shots, blasting rock, loading rock into haul trucks to take to the plant where the various rocks are crushed, screened, and separted into their appropriate sizes. Of course, knowing the geology and having a good mine plan are also important. At one time the rock was mined for use to make cement, however the chemistry is not quite high enough in calcium carbonate as Essroc like so they don’t get rock for that purpose any longer. Some customers use the rock for out of spec AG lime. Two limestone formations occur in this area. The Frederick formation is found within the quarry while the Grove formation lies to the east. Based on stratigraphy of these formations, each limestone unit can be divided further into members. From west to east, they are: Rocky Springs Station member, Adamstown member and Lime Kiln member, all belonging to the Frederick formation. The Grove formation can be divided into the Ceversville member and the Fountain member (west to east). You will be permitted to collect off of a pile of limestone here. Watch for white, yellow or other colors in veins or crystals. This will be calcite, the primary mineral that composed limestone. It has a hardness of 3 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale, has 3 directions or cleavage and forms rhombohedra or dog-tooth shaped crystals. Calcite will react with vinegar with made into a powder or more readily with muriatic acid.

Aerial geologic map of the Buckeystown quarry

Aerial geologic map of the Buckeystown quarry

Stop 6 Catoctin (Isabella) Furnace in Cunnigham Falls State Park near Thurmont 18th and 19th century iron furnace The historical marker states: ”Catoctin Furnace: An important iron furnace during the Revolution owned by Governor Thomas Johnson and his brothers. Furnished 100 tons of shells used at Yorktowne.” The Johnson Furnace was a cold-blast operation. It operated from 1776 to 1795, and then was idle until 1803. The furnace operated again between 1803 and 1811 with substantial improvements. Early production consisted of household implements, tools, cast iron stoves, etc. The works were purchased by by John Brien in 1831 and modernized. The furnace operated until it was shut down and dismantled in 1880. The site of the Johnson stack was probably in about the middle of the retaining wall behind the existing (Isabella) stack. Another owner built the Isabella Furnace in 1856. Both the Johnson and Isabella stacks were 33 feet high, but the Isabella was supplied with a steam-powered hot blast mechanism. The Isabella operation was a advanced design for a charcoal furnace. It might have been capable to use anthracite or coke, but neither were available. The Isabella is the remaining stack on display. A third stack, the Deborah, was built in 1873 about 140 feet south of the Isabella. It was a water or steam-powered hot-blast furnace which used coke or coal with a daily capacity of 35 tons of pig iron. It operated until 1903 and was then dismantled. In the late 1800’s, when the complex was at its heyday it consisted of: 80 houses for workers, a saw mill, a grist mill, a company store, farms, an ore railroad and 3 furnace stacks. Production was 9,000 tons of pig-iron annually. A magnetite (iron) mine was located on a hill to the southwest and continued to mine until 1912. Today, we should have time to visit the stack area and walk east to see the remains of the ironmaster’s house. Further walking on the trail will take you past slag heaps a raceway and dam for the waterwheel for the Johnson furnace.

Portal of the Catoctin Furnace

Portal of the Catoctin Furnace

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