Meckley's Quarry
Mandata, Pennsylvania
August 5, 2007
Report by Mike Streeter
Pictures by Mike & Chrissy Streeter


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As was the case in August 2005, we were invited again by RJ Harris and other members of the Central Pennsylvania Rock and Mineral Club (CPRMC) to join them on their annual August picnic and field trip to Meckley's Limestone Quarry in Mandata, PA. Meckley's is best known for its beautiful blue celestite, but other minerals, including calcite and strontianite may also be found there. The quarry is opened to the general rockhounding community only one afternoon a year usually in late-August or September, so we were thrilled to be invited to join the club on their exclusive field trip.

The picnic event was held on the grounds of Ted and Holly Keck's historic "Blackstone Mill" on the Mahantango Creek in quaint Pillow, PA. Chrissy, Opal and I showed up around 12:30 PM where others had already started to assemble. It didn't take long for Opal to find the creek where she joined the Keck's dog chasing sticks and getting wet and muddy.

After enjoying a terrific meal of fried chicken and fixings, those who were interested in rockhounding that day caravanned about 10 minutes to Meckley's. We poked around the eastern section of the quarry for a while and didn't find much of anything worth dragging home. But, since we considered the day to be more of a social than rockhounding event, we were happy to just hang out and visit. Just about the time that we were thinking about calling it an early day (for once), Rick Watts came up and told me that he had gained permission to check out the western section of the quarry, on the other side of the road and asked if we wanted to tag along. He wasn't sure what, if anything, was to be had there, but it wouldn't take long to check it out.

We made out way down to the lowest level to find Kerry Matt and John "Pen" Ambler were there. With help from Pen, Kerry was busy digging in a spot that contained scattered crystal-lined vugs in limestone. He showed us a couple rocks that he had recovered with pockets lined with small relatively-small blue celestite and dogtooth calcite crystals. Kerry is a renowned Pennsylvanian rockhound who has collected what are undoubtedly some of the finest Meckley's celestite specimens ever recovered, so he was not particularly impressed with his finds so far that day. After watching him dig for a few minutes, he told us that we would be welcome to bust up some of the boulders that he had already pried loose to see what we could find inside while he continued hunting for larger pockets with bigger and better crystals.

Kerry Matt (left) & Rick Watts

Rick, recovering from a recent surgery, was unable to swing a hammer or lift more than a couple pounds, so I did the rock busting for both of us. I proceeded to bang apart just about all the likely boulders and we had managed to find a few odds and ends. As Kerry continued to dig, I decided to walk around to see if I could find another spot worth attacking. After a few minutes, Rick called me back over and told me that Kerry had agreed to allow us to work the rock below where he was digging and in line with the vein system. This was yet another example of rockhounding quid pro quo and this time between Kerry and Rick, who had shared digging spots many times before at other sites. Since Rick couldn't dig, I was all too happy to get in on the deal and supply the necessary labor!

After about 30 minutes, Rick and I began to find a few nice pockets. It didn't take long thereafter for Kerry's spot to start drying up so he opted to join forces with us.

The rest of the afternoon was spent moving and busting rock to chase pockets in the hard limestone wall.

Making sure that we maintained the Streeter's well-earned reputation for being downright silly, Chrissy took a picture of Pen taking a picture of her. By the way, Pen is the man to go to in Pennsylvania if you have a tough mineralogical question or need to identify an unknown. It is always refreshing to see a person of his stature behaving as juvenile as do we.

Opal, still tired from the boiling-hot previous day spent at the National Limestone quarry (click here for National Report), took the opportunity to catch up on her beauty sleep.

We found a bunch of terrific specimens before calling it quits around 6:30 PM. Even Kerry was impressed with at least one of the larger specimens; he, Rick and Pen claimed that some of the specimens contained a different assortment of mineral habits than they had previously seen from Meckley's. So, not only were Chrissy and I happy with our take, we were pleased to be a part of something a little bit new for our Pennsylvanian friends.

The following pictures show a few of the specimens that we were lucky enough to bring home.

Click on each specimen picture to enlarge

Click on each specimen picture to enlarge

Special thanks to RJ, Rick, Kerry, Pen and the rest of the CPRMC crew for the picnic and awesome experience at Meckley's!