By Judy Brown
The largest Garnet Mining operation is located in the small hamlet of North River. The current operation is located off the 13th Lake Road on Ruby Mountain. The most interesting mine is on Gore Mountain. You can access this mine by taking Barton’s Mines Rd. from Rt 28 in North River. The deposit on Gore is very unusual. It has the largest crystal formations of any garnet mine known in the world. The garnet crystals, the hardest in the world, are 12 sided. This makes Adirondack garnet sought after as an abrasive. Barton’s garnet has a beautiful ruby red color that flashes in the sun. The tour at Barton’s Mineral Shop is great family fun. Your tour guide will give you a brief historical lecture, and then help you identify the garnet and what to look for to find that sought-after gem stone. You are then on your own to collect your own treasures.
In 1969, the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, made garnet the New York State Gem Stone. If you would like to strike out on your own, there are other mines in the area, and some of the streams around have garnet in them. During the heydays of mining in the early 1900’s, there were about 7 operating garnet mines.
The old Hooper Mine is located on state land, and can be accessed by going over Garnet Hill Lodge property. You need to ask permission, but there is usually not a problem, and there are maps available. It is a half mile hike up to an open pit that is starting to grow in with cedar trees. There is a beautiful view of Thirteenth Lake and a view of the Ruby Mountain Mining Operation.
A few gift shops in the area have Adirondack garnet jewelry for purchase, but it is not found in most jewelry stores because of its limited availability. There are a few gem cutters that work with the local garnet. Joe and Judy Brown, owners of Garnet Studio, in North River, are stone cutters. Joe facets and Judy cuts cabochons and makes 14k and sterling silver jewelry in their small shop, located on Casterline Road off of the 13th Lake Road. You can find Joe at the Gore Mountain Mineral Shop in the summer on Sundays and Mondays demonstrating his craft.
For more information about the garnet deposits in the Adirondacks, there are many different books on hiking and mineral deposits in the area.