All About the Dig
Please take the time to read this page to learn all about how our fee dig works. This will answer almost all of your questions and will help ensure that your trip is a great success. We don't have anyone answering phones full time as we are a working mine, and the folks that run the digs are in the mine a good part of the week. You can contact us via email if you have any questions you can't find an answer to here or on the the "Questions?" page; use the "Contact Us" form to email us and we'll get back as fast we can.
The dig starts very promptly at 11:00am. Because of that, we ask you to arrive at the gate at 10:30am. This gives you time to check in, pay the fee, turn in your paperwork and then drive the remaining half mile to the top of Chief Mountain. We suggest that after you park your car you put your lunch in the pavilion, so it won't overheat in your car, and ask the dig host what table you will be assigned to. Leave your gloves and bags for gems, etc. at your assigned table so you know which one to come back to after our orientation. You may shop in our gift shop, relax in the pavilion or walk around the dig area. You might find gems on the ground--people miss a lot of stuff, but please stay off of the dig pile! We need to make sure everyone gets a fair chance to find gems from the pile, so we can't allow anyone to "high-grade" the pile. Stay out of the brush as we do have rattlesnakes up here.
At 11:00am prompt, we will start the dig with an orientation presentation. Please make sure to quickly gather when you're called so you don't cut into the dig time for others. Parents, please gather up your children and get them to the orientation when we call you.
Listen very carefully during the orientation presentation. We want you to find gems, and we'll give you the best instructions on how you can be successful. We'll tell you exactly what to and what not to do.
After orientation is complete, you are released to your tables to begin digging, and the fun starts! Head back to your table and load up your bucket(s) and start screening and washing. Please make sure that you properly stack your screens (the larger 1/4" mesh goes on top), and don't ever load more than one bucket into your screen, as you can break it. Don't shake your screens--use the provided trowels to carefully move the rocks around and let the small stuff sift to the second screen. Carefully pick out the larger rocks first, and if you need to, wash them and look at them. Put all of your washed rocks under your table so you don't trip over them as you build a pile during the dig.
After you have the largest rocks out of the top screen, and nearly all of the dirt, you can lift the screen and shake the last bit of dirt out of it. Don't try to shake it without lifting it--you'll damage the screens. You do want as little dirt as possible before washing it, so the wash tub stays clean. Place the screen in the tub and rub the rocks around--this is why gloves are important--it will wash them well, allowing you to find more gems. Place the washed screen long-way across the tub, so the water drips out into the screen. You don't want it to drip onto the second screen, as it will be harder to screen if the dirt gets wet. You want to be screening DRY dirt. Spend a few minutes sorting through the washed rocks and then dump them out under your table. Set the big screen up against the table so you don't trip over it, and then repeat this process with the second screen with the smaller rocks. Spend a bit more time on this screen, carefully removing handfuls of gravel to look through, throwing the remnants under the table. The best gem pieces are often the small ones in the second screen. When you are finished, dump them under the table, and restock your screens--remember, the smaller mesh screen goes down first--and then go to the pile and get another bucket. Speaking of the pile…..
This is the whole reason you come to the dig--the big pile full of dirt, rocks and most importantly--gems! We have some important rules about the pile, and we enforce them. We want you to be aware of them and understand why we have them, so you don't think we're just trying to be tough on people on the pile.
It's really all about respect for others at the dig. Everyone wants to have an equal and fair chance at finding gems. That means we need everyone to stay off the pile except to fill your bucket. You can fill your bucket very rapidly by scraping dirt and gravel downhill into your bucket. It really shouldn't take more than a few seconds, and the dig host demonstrates how to do it for you very well. If you sit on the pile and dig through it for gems, you are taking stones away that others might find. No one wants to take the time to fill and screen their bucket if the dirt has already been picked over, so respect the rules and stay off the pile except to fill your bucket.
If we see people sitting on the pile and digging, we'll nicely remind them of the proper etiquette. Parents, please help us with your children on this. They often are tempted to sit on the pile. We understand this, but we want every kid to find something (and every adult!), so we need your help supervising your children and keeping them off the pile unless they are filling a bucket. A good idea is to have your child shovel the dirt into a bucket while you hold it. This keeps them engaged and removes the temptation to pick through the pile.
We provide a covered pavilion with picnic tables and a mister cooling system. We suggest that you put your lunch on a table when you arrive so it won't overheat in your car. Space is first-come, first-served, but there's plenty of room for everyone. You can take your lunch break from digging whenever you feel like it. Please make sure to clean up your trash and put it in the provided trash bins. We also have a bin for recyclables.
There is an outdoor sink on the bathroom building where you can wash your hands or fill a water bottle. The bathrooms are large and are suitable for changing after you've gotten dirty digging for gems. Please be aware that we are on our own septic up here, so don't put anything down the toilets except toilet paper. Water is also a precious commodity, so please don't waste water when you're washing up.
The dig ends at 3:00pm. A few minutes before 3:00, we'll call out that its time for your last bucket. Note that we don't say last buckets. Please get your last bucket at this time and screen it out. Once you're done, please tidy up your area. If you've got any trash or recyclables, please put them in the proper containers. Please make sure that your screens are stacked on your table in the correct order, and if there's any heavy gravel or mud on your table, please use the provided trowel to scrape it off. This will help us a great deal, and we really appreciate the assistance.
Make sure you don't leave any of your gems on the table, and if you have lunch coolers or other items in the pavilion, please collect them before you leave. After you wash up, you might want to stop in our shop and see what we have for sale--we've got loose gems for cutting, specimens for mineral collectors, and Oceanview Mine souvenirs like t-shirts, hats, etc.