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Gem-O-Rama Fun in Trona, California


What is Gem-O-Rama?

Gem-O-Rama is an amazing crystal collecting experience held near Death Valley, California. For a small fee, geologists, rock hounds, and crystal lovers all get to collect rare and different minerals the second weekend in October every year.

It is possible to find rare Hanksite, Trona, Thenardite, Borax, as well as white and pink Halite. To get these crystals, everyone digs through huge mud piles (shown on Dirty Jobs: Mud Mineral Excavator), wades through saltwater pools, and sorts through blown out crystals. You get dirty, get a fun weekend, and get crystals. It really is an amazing weekend!

Gem-O-Rama Location


Gem-O-Rama is a Gem and Mineral Show with 3 associated field trips that you attend in your own car.

The field trips are actually the big draw. There are 3 of them and for each of them people drive their cars in a parade over to Searles Dry Lake next to the town.

The Gem and Mineral Show

The rock and mineral show is great and has about 20 dealers selling stuff, including rocks, minerals, fossils, gems, jewelry, and lapidary supplies. They also have mineral specimens on display and show a video about the field trips.

The Mud Field Trip

The first field trip is held Saturday morning and it's where people get to collect Hanksite from big piles of mud.

The Blow Hole Field Trip

The second field trip is the blow hole field trip and it is held on Saturday afternoon and involves collecting crystals off of the ground after they have been thrown there through a complicated process that I'll describe later.

The Salt Pools Field Trip

The third and final field trip is to get pink or cranberry colored halite crystals from pools of extremely salty water.

Gem-O-Rama Important Information Flyer

Gem-O-Rama Information

Gem-O-Rama Information

Pretty little pseudomorph at the gemorama Gem and Mineral show

Pretty little pseudomorph at the gemorama Gem and Mineral show

Trona Rock and Mineral Show

The Gem-O-Rama Rock and Mineral Show is held in the SLG & MS Lapidary and Show Building, located on the corner of Main and Trona Road. The address is 13337 Main Street, but it's easy to find, just look for all the cars lined up by a building along the main road.

There are over 20 rock and mineral dealers at the show, plus exhibits and geode cutting and demonstrations. There is free admission to the rock and mineral show.

The show building is also a great place to eat. They have a small cafeteria to make it easier for visitors and make some money for this small town. Lunch hours on Saturday and Sunday run from 10am-4pm and dinner is available Friday and Saturday nights from 5pm-7pm. Dinner is $9.

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This is also where you'll have to go to sign up for the field trips and buy brine to clean your crystals, so you might as well get a snack and check out the rocks while you're there.

Dirty Jobs

Visit Trona and Gem-o-rama with Mike Rowe. One season Mike Rowe visited Gem-O-Rama and Searles Lake to check out the dirty work done there. There is footage of the factory, setting explosive charges for the blow hole field trip, and they also filmed some of the people digging through the mud piles, though Mike isn't in that part.

It just so happened that the year they filmed that episode was the same that me and some of my friends attended Gem-O-Rama so we got to see them filming at the mud piles. I was so eager to get as many crystals as possible in the small amount of time we had that I was paying more attention to crystal collecting than to the crew though they actually filmed me for a while cleaning crystals they did not show that part in the episode. I am in one of the shots though for a few seconds -- of course while I was sitting in the mud, covered with goo, and digging.

Dirty Jobs Film Crew Filming Mud Piles

Dirty Jobs at Searles Lake

Dirty Jobs at Searles Lake

In the background of the above shot of people collecting crystals from the mud piles, you can see the Dirty Jobs film crew. They are filming from a cherry picker on the other side of the mud piles.

Mineral Collecting near Death Valley

Mineral Collecting near Death Valley

The Mud Pile Field Trip

This field trip is held on Saturday morning and features the chance to dig through piles of mud to find crystals. The most commonly found crystal here is Hanksite, sometimes in small chunks, other times in massive pieces.

The mud for the this event comes from deep below the surface of the dry lake, where the mud is saturated with brine. The mud and the crystals growing in it would be impossible for us to collect from if it wasn't for the mineral company's help.

First the mineral company tests various areas for nice crystal concentrations. When they find a good area that has lots of mud full of crystals they use heavy equipment to dig deep holes to where the mud is with the crystals. They then load tons of this crystal-filled mud into dump trucks which take the mud to a level spot where there's lots of room and they spread it out, so at the prearranged time we can go jump in and start going through it looking for the Hanksite crystals we like the best.

Mud Trip Details

The Mud Trip is held Saturday morning and it leaves at 9am.

You must leave at this time to go, and you have to register ahead of time inside the building, so make sure you get there on time! Registration starts at 7:30am, and goes until 9am. If you are there after 9am, you won't be able to go.

During the mud trip you can collect cluster and barrel forms of hanksite. Also, potentially, trona and borax.

It is $15 per car.

Collecting Crystals from Mud Piles at Gem-O-Rama

Collecting Crystals at Gemorama

Collecting Crystals at Gemorama

Me Collecting Crystals from the Mud Piles

AlishaV Collecting Crystals from Mud Piles Dirty Jobs

AlishaV Collecting Crystals from Mud Piles Dirty Jobs


Read My Step-By-Step Guide to Mud Trip and How to Collect There

  • Gem-O-Rama: Mud Field Trip
    There is an event where you can tell your kids to go play in the mud, and really want them to,. This event is called the Mud Field Trip of Gem-O-Rama and I'll tell you step-by-step how to collect there.
Collecting Minerals near Death Valley California

Collecting Minerals near Death Valley California

The Blow Hole Field Trip

The blow hole field trip is held Saturday afternoon and is a chance to collect many small crystals, such as small pieces of Hanksite, Trona, Thenardite, Borax, Halite, and the rare Sulfohalite.

This event starts before the crystal collectors even arrive. The crystals in Searles Lake are formed below the surface of the lake bed where there is extremely salty water, called brine. Without the mineral company's help we would never be able to get any crystals since the average person couldn't tunnel down 50' to get at them, but lucky for us, the Searles Valley Mineral Company helps us out long before we arrive.

They start by drilling several shafts down into the lakebed, about 50' deep. The Navy explosive experts then place explosives down the holes and set them off to loosen the crystals from their beds. When it's time, the SVMC technicians will pump compressed air down into the hole which propels the crystals and brine up and out of the hole and onto the surface of the lake. They spread this brine and crystal mixture over the surface of the dry lake where we can later collect them. They also save one blow hole to spray out for the people on the field trip, so we can watch and have fun collecting the newly blown crystals too.

The demonstration during the field trip actually didn't come about for the event in 2008, since the pump truck broke through the hard surface of the lakebed and tipped over. This was the first time it this had ever happened and the truck was rescued a few days later so it didn't get mired in the salt beds forever.

Blow Hole Trip Details

The Blow Hole field trip is on Saturday in the early afternoon. It leaves at 2:30pm. Remember, you have to be there and registered when it's time to leave!

Registration is from 1:30 to 2:30pm.

During the blow hole trip you can collect the most variety of minerals. Possibilities include hanksite, halite, borax, and sulfohalite.

It costs $15 per car.

Waiting to Collect Crystals from the Blow Hole

Blow Hole Field Trip Gemorama

Blow Hole Field Trip Gemorama

Collecing Crystals from Blow Hole at Gem-O-Rama

Collecting MInerals at Gemorama

Collecting MInerals at Gemorama

Minerals Collected from Blow Hole Field Trip

Minerals Collected near Death Valley California

Minerals Collected near Death Valley California

Standing in Brine Pool at Gem-o-rama

Standing in Brine Pool at Gem-o-rama

The Pink Halite / Brine Pools Field Trip

The Pink Halite or Brine Pools field trip is many people's favorite. It is held Sunday.

On this field trip, people collect Halite or salt crystals from pools of extremely saline water that are tinted red by salt-loving algae called halophilic or halobacteria.

As the brine pools dry up, the amount of salt in the water reaches a certain level that can no longer be suspended, so it starts to fall out of the water. This forms salt crystals inside and around the edges of the pools. As they crystallize, the Halite often forms around the algae and takes on the reddish coloring.

Depending on how much algae they form around, the Halite crystals can be white to pink to a deep cranberry color.

Details About the Pink Halite Trip

The Pink Halite field trip is held on Sunday and it leaves at 9am. Be in line and registered by 9am to attend the field trip.

During the Pink Halite trip you can collect primarily pink halite from the salt pools. Sometimes you can find darker halite, I call strawberry and cranberry, also sometimes white halite that hasn't taken up the algae.

$20 a car to attend.

Collecting Halite

Collecting Rocks and Minerals Near Death Valley

Collecting Rocks and Minerals Near Death Valley

Looking for Halite at Searles Lake

This couple below are looking for halite in the brine pools at Searles Lake. They don't know how to search for the crystals and so aren't finding much, but the last part of the clip shows what a bit of what's it's like to search for the halite.

The Allen's Gem-O-Rama Post

  • Team Allen: The Gem-O-Rama.
    The couple in the video went to Gem-O-Rama and wrote a post on their blog about it. It has that nice video of someone collecting halite from the brine pools as well as other details of their trip and gemorama.

Get a Rock Hammer

Everyone can always use a rock hammer, but it really comes in handy on the Pink Halite/Brine Pool Field Trip. Also if you plan to collect at any places on your way to Gem-O-Rama or in the Trona area while you are there, you might want to pick up a rock hammer.

Really, my rock hammer never leaves my vehicle since I never know when I'll want to stop and use it to break off a piece of rock to take home.

You'll Need a Breaker Bar

A long breaker bar is needed to pry the halite loose from the shelves in the Brine Pools.

You could rent one at the store in Gem-O-Rama if they have enough left, or just bring your own to ensure you can break off the halite.

Collecting Crystals from Salt Pools

Collecting Crystals from Gemorama Salt Pools

Collecting Crystals from Gemorama Salt Pools

Gem-O-Rama Poll

More Information about Gem-O-Rama

Valley Wells Recreation Area

Valley Wells Recreation Area

Trona Campground

Many people that go to Gem-O-Rama stay at the campground set up for the attendees. It is located a few miles north of Trona and is fairly cheap. Camping there means you are close to the action and it helps the community earn money.

It is called the Valley Wells Recreation Area and it is 5.3 miles north of the show. It is dry camping and there are no services, but it's nice to have a place so close by.

It costs $5 per vehicle.

Minerals Found During Gem-O-Rama

The minerals that you can collect at Gem-O-Rama are some of the most rare, uncommon, and unusual.


Halite is what we typically think of as salt.