Gemtree, Cattlewater Pass, Fossssicking, Rubyvale

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:00
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Hi all

Planning a trip across the Plenty Hwy in August and looking for a few tips. According to the Plenty Hwy trek report on this site, there is a track beween Arltunga and the Plenty called the Cattlewater pass. Says it is rough but OK. Towing a good Off Road Trailer and info on conditons appreciated.

Keen to try a bit of fossicking while in the region. Any ideas on where to go or who to talk to welcome. We are rank ameuters (though we did get a great sapphire in Rubyvale more later!) so need help. Trek notes say plenty of good fossicking sites along the Cattlewater pass but its a bit country out there. How do we find out the better spots?

Finally, about 15 years ago, we visited the sapphire fields west of Emerald. Went to a "tourist" mine where we dug the ore below ground and had it processed. Ended up with a really good stone and several specks. Were thinking about going back again this year but often the second visit is a real let-down. What's the current form at the Rubyvale fields, is it all cleaned up and touristy or still has a bit of character?

Any other tips on the Plenty welcome.

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Reply By: Banjo - Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:14

Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:14
We went through Cattlewater Pass and it wasn't a problem. The Caravan Park operater at Gemtree will hire the equipment, and show you what to do, but the Park is at a guess 10-15km back towards the Stuart Hwy from where Cattlewater Pass hits the Plenty. We had a great day on the field and found 8 reasonable Zircons for our effort. We were there in November and it was bloody hot, and the ground rock hard, so there was plenty of sweat and effort required to get our stones. Have fun!
Banjo (WA)
AnswerID: 147184

Reply By: Willem - Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:18

Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:18
Cattlewater Pass is an easy run and 4x4 not required though high clearance an advantage.

Go to Gemtree CP. The people there specialise in fossicking etc and you should get all the right info and fossicking permits and mud maps from them or write to Northen Territory Dept of Mines and Energy in Alice Springs

The missus dug up a nice garnet out there in the Harts Ranges and had a ring made out of it.

Plenty stands for plenty of corrugations and sharp rocks. Drive at a safe speed and drop your tyre pressures to around 25psi

AnswerID: 147186

Reply By: Pedirka - Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:23

Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 15:23
Try speaking to the owner of the Gemtree Caravan park on the Plenty Hwy.
Years ago he used to fossick up there for Rubys and Zircons. He and his wife would spend six months a year on site fossicking and cutting gemstones.

We didnt know them until one day we helped them on the side of the road (breakdown) half way up the Stuart Hwy. He told us about his fossicking and invited us to come up and have a go. We did that, got heaps of Zircon. He lent us all the gear needed and even cut the stones for us. Had a fantastic time.
We did drive the track to Arltunga but that would have been at around 1989, things would have changed heaps since then

I did hear later that they leased some land and started the Gemtree Caravan Park and now live there full time.
AnswerID: 147189

Reply By: Graham & Ann - Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 16:00

Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 16:00
We travelled the Plenty H'wy to Gemtree in 2004, towing our van no problems. Plenty of bull dust that year though!!!.... You can have a read of our trip here if you wish Cattlewater Pass track should be fine with your camper, no good for our van though as it was too overgrown, we drove tjhis track without our van. There was a couple with a van parked about 1/2 way in off the Plenty probably doing a bit of fossicking there, from there on the track was too narrow and canopy too low for vans. Gemtree to Artunga can also be done via Pinnacles Road this is ok for vans and thats the way we towed into Arltunga. We stayed a week at Gemtree plenty of zircons found at the public digging spots along Pinnacles Rd. Enjoy the trip
AnswerID: 147195

Reply By: Member - Pezza (QLD) - Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 17:54

Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 17:54
G'day O.E.

The gemfields certainly hasn't been "cleaned up", it still has plenty of character, though the touristy aspect has unfortunately invaded there aswell, though only along the main road and Saphire and Rubyvale central, which I have to admit isn't such a bad thing for the local economy.
I'm not sure what you would classify as a "let down" but if you go out to 'the reward' or 'goanna flat', these places certainly haven't changed much over the years and have escaped the "touristy" side of things.
Don't forget you'll need a mining permit from Emerald to prospect out there now, and the Blue Gem C/P at saphire has most info required for visitors.
You won't find the "Thai's" out there anymore like you did 15-20 years ago, not sure about you but it doesn't affect most travellers as they tend to keep anything they find anyways.
Hope tou have a good trip.

AnswerID: 147216

Reply By: demon41 - Monday, Jan 09, 2006 at 20:38

Monday, Jan 09, 2006 at 20:38
Hi, We were at Rubyvale late September 05, it was our first visit , just wanted to try some fossicking . We were in the store looking at some gear and the young lass suggested that we go down to the last Wash Site on the road out to the North. We called in and bought a 20ltr bucket of " Virgin wash" ( $15.00) and we did half each ( Mate & I ) & wives. they supply the lot Sieves ,water wash tubs, bags, tweezers & Pots and then they check it to make sure that you dont throw any good stuff away. It was a neat tidy set up and the young lady was very helpfull as we didn't know what we were looking for anyway we ended up with a lot of small gear and a 3/4 carat sapphire and 3 good sized " Stars/ cats Eyes/.
I had that sapphire cut at home and set into a ring ( the setter said it was in the $200.00 range) so we were rapt ( especially the wife ).
There are lots of area's that you can fossick both at Rubyvale and at Sapphire.
Lots of fly's but a magic place. Have fun Cheers Des.
AnswerID: 147475

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