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The Obsidian Deposits of Arizona: Sources Characteristics and Regulations

Obsidian in Arizona: A Look at Sources, Characteristics and Collecting Regulations


Arizona boasts of various natural wonders, from the Grand Canyon to the Painted Desert, and among these is obsidian, a volcanic glass that many people, both locals, and tourists, collect. Its value lies in its sharp edges, making it useful for making tools and weapons.

In this article, we’ll delve into the sources of obsidian in Arizona, how it looks, and the regulations governing its collection. Sources of Obsidian:

Arizona is home to one of the largest sources of obsidian in North America, the San Francisco Volcanic Field.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the sites where you can find obsidian:

– Government Mountain: Located about 30 miles from Flagstaff, Government Mountain is one of the accessible sites for finding high-quality obsidian. It has five different types of this volcanic glass, and the largest workable outcrop is near the Obsidian Tank.

– Pickpocket Mountain: This site is just east of Government Mountain and has been a popular rock hunting spot for years. While smaller than Government Mountain, Pickpocket Mountain has its own obsidian deposit and is easier to collect.

– Burro Creek: Located about 80 miles west of Phoenix off the scenic highway, Burro Creek is where you can find black obsidian. The quality of this glass is excellent, making it one of the most popular among rock hunters.

– Tank Mountains: The Tank Mountains are located in La Paz County near Quartzsite. This site is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles and has both black and brown obsidian.

– Sauceda Mountains: Located east of the San Francisco Peaks, this site has a small deposit of gray obsidian. Collecting Obsidian:

People have been collecting obsidian in Arizona since prehistoric times.

Native Americans used it to make weapons, tools, and ornaments for trade and daily use. Fast forward to today, obsidian collection is still popular, but there are rules and regulations governing it.

Rock hunters collect obsidian on reservation lands with a permit or with permission from the landowner. Collecting without a permit is illegal and can attract hefty fines or imprisonment.

It’s always best to inquire about the regulations before collecting. Apart from rock hunters, researchers also collect obsidian for scientific purposes.

They use it to study ancient trading routes and determine where prehistoric societies sourced their materials. When looking to collect obsidian, it’s crucial to forage responsibly.

Avoid digging or collecting using heavy equipment like shovels or pickaxes as this can cause damage to the environment. Instead, use your rock hammer to break off fragments of the glass from the exposed surfaces.

Obsidian Characteristics:

Obsidian varies in appearance depending on its source. Some of its characteristics include:

– Size: Obsidian can range from tiny fragments to large rocks, some as big as 30cm in diameter.

– Color: Obsidian can be black, brown, or gray, depending on where it’s sourced. Black is the most common and popular color.

– Weathering: Obsidian is sensitive to weathering. It undergoes a process called hydration, which causes it to turn white around the edges.

It’s always best to keep it dry to preserve its natural state. Conclusion:

If you are looking to collect obsidian in Arizona, be sure to follow the rules and regulations governing it.

The state has various sites to choose from, and the obsidian’s characteristics vary depending on its source. Remember to be responsible when collecting to protect the environment and preserve its natural state.

Superior Obsidian in Pinal County: Sources and Characteristics

Obsidian, a black volcanic glass, is known for its sharp edges and is used for making cutting tools and weapons. Superior, a town in Pinal County, Arizona, has become a popular destination for rock hunters looking for high-quality obsidian.

This article will explore the sources of obsidian in and around the town of Superior and the characteristics of Apache Tears, a type of obsidian found in the area. Obsidian Sources Near Superior:

Superior is surrounded by numerous sites where rock hunters can collect obsidian.

Some of the most popular locations are:

– Pickpocket Mountain: Located near Superior, Pickpocket Mountain is a popular spot for finding obsidian fragments and nodules. It was also the site of a notorious massacre by Apaches, with the rocky outcrops serving as hiding places for the warriors.

– Apache Tears: These small, smooth, and round nodules are a type of obsidian found in the area. They come in different colors, but the most popular is the blue-gray one.

The nodules get their name from a legend that claims they were the tears of Apache women mourning the death of their warrior husbands. – Creekbeds: Obsidian fragments can also be found in the creekbeds around Superior.

The glass is transported by the flowing water from the surrounding hillsides and deposited in the creek. – Perlite Road: Located east of Globe, Perlite Road is a popular spot for collecting Apache Tears.

The scenic drive leads to the Pinto Valley Mine and presents a stunning view of the area. Characteristics of Apache Tears:

Apache Tears are a popular type of obsidian found in the Superior area.

They are small, smooth, and round nodules that have been weathered by wind and water. They are usually blue-gray in color, although they can also be brown, green, or red.

The nodules are formed from lava flow that cools and hardens on the surface, forming small nodules. These nodules are then eroded by wind and water to create the smooth, round shape of Apache Tears.

Apache Tears are often used in jewelry and are believed to have healing properties. Legend has it that Apache women cried tears of grief for their fallen warriors, and the Great Spirit transformed these tears into the stones that are now known as Apache Tears.

Obsidian at Burro Creek:

Burro Creek, located 80 miles west of Phoenix, is known for its high-quality black obsidian. The obsidian at Burro Creek comes from the Bagdad Mine, which produces weathered black glass cortical material.

This material is of excellent knapping quality and is popular among rock hunters and knappers alike. Rock hunters collect this material for making knives, while knappers use the material for making arrowheads, spear points, and other cutting tools.

Collecting at Burro Creek:

Burro Creek is a popular spot for rock hunters and hikers, and it has a campground that is open year-round. The creek provides water and offers an excellent opportunity for dressing the raw obsidian material.

However, the creek is prone to flash floods and can be dangerous during the monsoon season. It’s always best to check the weather forecast before heading to Burro Creek.

The road to Burro Creek can also be challenging, especially for vehicles without high clearance. The area can be accessed via rough roads that require four-wheel-drive vehicles.

In conclusion, Superior and Burro Creek are two popular spots for finding obsidian in Arizona. The areas offer a variety of locations where rock hunters can collect obsidian fragments and nodules.

Apache Tears, a type of obsidian unique to the area, are highly prized by collectors for their smooth, round shape and blue-gray color. The black obsidian at Burro Creek is of excellent knapping quality, making it popular among rock hunters and knappers.

However, it’s important to always follow the regulations governing the collection of obsidian and to forage responsibly to preserve the environment. Tank and Sand Tank Mountains, and Sauceda Mountains: A Look at Obsidian Deposits and Sources

Arizona is home to numerous obsidian deposits, and among them are the newly discovered ones in Tank and Sand Tank Mountains and the prehistoric sources in the Sauceda Mountains.

These deposits offer unique characteristics and present exciting opportunities for rock hunters and researchers. This article will delve into the details of these deposits, including their locations, characteristics, and history.

Newly Discovered Obsidian Deposits:

Tank and Sand Tank Mountains are located in east-central Yuma County and southern Maricopa County, respectively. These mountains have recently been discovered to contain previously unexploited obsidian deposits.

The deposits are dense with nodules, and some are up to 35cm in size. The areas are under the management of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and collecting on BLM-controlled land requires a permit.

Collecting is limited to small amounts to ensure the sustainability of the resource. The obsidian found in these deposits is translucent green-brown, opaque, or banded.

It is believed that these deposits are part of the Tertiary Sauceda Volcanic Field, which is located east of the San Francisco Peaks. Unique Characteristics of Deposits:

The obsidian nodules found in Tank and Sand Tank Mountains are unique in their size and coloration.

The nodules are large and can be up to 35cm in diameter. The translucent green-brown variety is the most common, while some nodules are opaque or banded gray/black.

The banded obsidian has alternating green and black layers, which give them a unique appearance. These variations in coloration are due to the geological processes during their formation, which can take thousands of years.

The Sauceda Volcanic Field, where these deposits originate, has been inactive for millions of years. Sauceda Mountains:

The Sauceda Mountains in eastern Arizona have been a source of obsidian for thousands of years.

Prehistoric peoples used the obsidian at Sauceda Mountains for knapping, a process used to make cutting tools and weapons. Today, the area is still a popular destination for rock hunters looking for high-quality obsidian.

However, some of the deposits are on tribal land or privately owned, and permission must be obtained before collecting. Quality of Obsidian in Sauceda Mountains:

The obsidian found in the Sauceda Mountains is distinctive in its coloration and strata.

The obsidian found in the southern part of the mountains is a green-brown variety, while the rest of the range has mostly banded brown/black, banded green/black varieties, and a smattering of gray/black. The prolific specimen locations in these mountains are a testament to the obsidians quality.

The unique color and strata of the obsidian are due to the geological makeup of the area, with deposits from various volcanic episodes in the area’s history. In conclusion, Tank and Sand Tank Mountains and the Sauceda Mountains are among the notable obsidian deposits in Arizona.

The newly discovered deposits in Tank and Sand Tank Mountains have unique characteristics that make them exciting to rock hunters and researchers. Collecting regulations are in place to ensure sustainability and preservation of the resource.

The Sauceda Mountains’ prehistoric sources offer a glimpse into the area’s history and have high-quality obsidian with distinctive coloration and strata. The obsidian deposits in Arizona are diverse, and all offer a fascinating glimpse into the natural history of the state.

In conclusion, this article has explored various obsidian deposits in Arizona, highlighting their sources, characteristics, and regulations concerning their collection. Obsidian may be of great value due to its sharp edges making it useful for tools and weapons.

It’s important to note that collecting permits and regulations must be followed to preserve the environment and prevent any potential damage. The newly discovered deposits in Tank and Sand Tank Mountains and the prehistoric sources in the Sauceda Mountains offer a valuable glimpse into the geological history of Arizona.

By following the guidelines and regulations, rock hunters can explore and discover the unique characteristics and beauty of Arizona’s obsidian deposits.



What is obsidian, and what is it used for? Ans: Obsidian is a black volcanic glass known for its sharp edges, making it useful for making cutting tools and weapons.

2. Where can I find obsidian in Arizona?

Ans: Obsidian can be found in many locations in Arizona such as San Francisco Volcanic Field, Government Mountain, Pickpocket Mountain, and Burro Creek. 3.

Are there any regulations in place for collecting obsidian in Arizona? Ans: Yes, there are regulations in place, and collecting on reservation lands requires permission or a permit.

4. What is the significance of new obsidian deposits in Tank and Sand Tank Mountains?

Ans: These deposits are unique in size and coloration, and the nodules can be up to 35cm in diameter, offering exciting opportunities for researchers and rock hunters. 5.

Can I collect obsidian in Sauceda Mountains? Ans: Some of the deposits are on tribal land or privately owned, and permission must be obtained before collecting.

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