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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Delta County Rock Wranglers credits its founding to this incredible discovery

Mar 22, 2021 02:57PM ● By Arlyn Macdonald
Pick axe laying near petrified wood, used by Delta County Rock Wranglers

The Rock Wranglers welcome all who have an interest in rocks, geology and the lapidary arts.

Here, there be dinosaurs

Rock hunting is a great hobby for all ages to enjoy the outdoors, appreciate the natural resources of an area and explore the earth sciences. The Delta County Rock Wranglers—one of over 450 rock and mineral clubs across the U.S.—began half a century ago with an amazing discovery.

In 1971, Vivian and Ed Jones, two of the club’s founding members, unearthed a large 150 million-year-old toe bone belonging to a new species of dinosaur: Torvosaurus tanneri. Over the next 20 years, 4,000 bones from over 30 different species were eventually unearthed, including two new species. 

Experts from all over the world trekked to the site. Famous news reporter Walter Cronkite did an onsite story about the discovery. While the dig was eventually shut down, the 55-acre excavation site is still considered one of the premier areas in the world for showing the history of paleontology, and is accessible by four-wheel drive in the summer.

This important scientific discovery on Dry Mesa, located 26 miles from the city of Delta, inspired local amateur geologists and rockhounds to form the Rock Wranglers. The Delta County Rock Wranglers club was established to “enhance the hobby of rock collecting,” according to Harry Masinton, the club’s president.

“It’s a great organization to help people better appreciate geology, the dos and don’ts of collecting, and to have fun,” Masinton said.

Rock enthusiasts welcome

The Rock Wranglers welcome all who have an interest in rocks, geology and the lapidary arts—stones, minerals and gems shaped into decorative items. 

The club meets monthly from September through May and spends the rest of the warm months out in the field. Over the years, field trips have remained a favorite club activity. A recent outing took club members on a search for petrified wood samples. 

Del Canty, a 30-year member of the club, keeps and maintains the seven big diamond saws used by club members to cut their rocks, along with smaller equipment.

“It gives members a chance to cut different sizes of their specimens,” Canty explained. “Barite, petrified wood and dinosaur bones are found in this area.”

Club Treasurer Sheila Corrigan likes learning about other collectors’ interests when they get together at monthly meetings.

“It’s a good group of friends. Everybody is friendly and shares their love of rocks,” Corrigan said. 

Meetings feature speakers and members sharing their expertise, as well as demonstrations like jewelry making with cabochons (rocks that are cut and polished to show the depths of their colors). 

The club has continued to meet during COVID while following all appropriate health guidelines.

Rock and Mineral Show

The Rock Wranglers are looking forward to hosting the annual Rock and Mineral Show this year, which was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

“We expect 900-1,000 visitors this year. Admission is free and there will be 25-30 vendors, dealers, demonstrations, family activities and door prizes,” Masinton said.

The show is scheduled for Saturday, June 5, 2021, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta.

For more information about the show or joining the Delta County Rock Wranglers, contact Masinton at 856-3861. Annual membership fees are $5 for individuals and $10 for couples and families. Plus, learn more about the discoveries on Dry Mesa by watching the 1976 documentary, “The Great Dinosaur Discovery” on YouTube.

More like this: Gem and Mineral Club devoted to Earth’s treasures

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