U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|El Centro Field Office|
Wiley Well District - Geode Beds
The Wiley Well District is located in the Colorado Desert, south of Interstate 10 between Desert Center and Blythe. This beautiful desert country is made up of the Little Chuckawalla, Mule, and Palo Verde Mountains; the Black Hills; and numerous washes. Paloverde trees in the washes give an impression of water and cool shade. The hills are dotted sparsely with desert plants. Winter rains coax colorful flowers from the cactus and other vegetation, making it a beautiful place to spend time in January or February. The district is also rich in history, from the gold rush days to General Patton’s tank training days during World War II. It contains ancient fossils as well as artifacts from early Native Americans, pioneers, conquistadors, ranchers, and military troops.
Best known for its many geode beds and a variety of other rocks and minerals, the Wiley Well District has been popular with rockhounds since the 1940s. There are several productive geode beds in the Black Hills, including Hauser, Roads End, Potato Patch, Cinnamon, Straw, and Hidden Saddle Beds. Typical geodes are hollow, spherical rock structures; solid geodes are called nodules. Geodes may also have unusual shapes. The walls of a geode are composed of chalcedony; crystals of quartz or calcite and occasionally other minerals line the walls and extend into the hollow, often forming a beautiful display. Geodes range in size from ½ inch to 10 inches. Although you can still find geodes at the surface of the beds, you may find more by digging into the soft volcanic ash, as long as you keep the disturbance to the surface within allowable limits.
Agate, chalcedony roses, jasper, psilomelane (romanechite), and amygdules are found throughout the hills and washes. Another major attraction for rockhounds is the Opal Hill Fire Agate Mine. There is a fee to dig at this privately owned area located in the Mule Mountains. In addition to the very fine fire agate, you may also find quartz crystal “flowers,” calcite crystals, chalcedony nodules, and other mineral specimens at this site.
In January 2000, the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies and the BLM signed a memorandum of understanding that designated the Wiley Well District as a Rockhound Educational and Recreational Area. The memorandum of understanding establishes and preserves over 36 square miles of this outstanding collecting area for rockhounding.
Information provided by Richard Pankey, California Federation of Mineralogical Societies, Inc.