Searching for garnet at the Barton Mines garnet tour in North River
Johnsburg is an all-American town, known widely for its red, white and blue.
In the spring and summer, thousands of visitors paddle and raft down the blue waters of the mighty Hudson River. In the winter, thousands more ski and snowboard down the white slopes of the Gore Mountain ski center and the Garnet Hill Lodge. And for more than a century, the Barton family’s Gore Mountain mine has produced the official gem stone of New York state, garnet, also known as the “Adirondack Ruby.”
And families interested in hunting for their own garnet can take the Barton Garnet Mine Tour, meeting at the Gore Mountain Mineral Shop on the Barton Mines Road in North River.
The world’s largest garnet ore deposits can be found on the western slopes of Gore Mountain in Warren County, where Barton International has been mining the reddish mineral for industrial use since 1878.
The Barton family has been in the mine tour business since 1933.
“One of the Barton family members as a young boy started it by selling rocks out of a front-end loader originally,” said host Bonnie Barton. “And then one of the mine buildings was relocated to where we have our mineral shop now.”
That building was the Whoopee House, the former base lodge for the old Barton Slopes rope-tow ski center at the Barton Mines. It was built for the winter of 1940-41. The ski hill was last used for the 1950-51 season, and the Whoopee House was later moved to its current location at the Barton Mines entrance gate.
“They opened that (building) up for high school-aged students to have summer jobs and sell rocks and start telling people the history and geology of the mines, and it’s just evolved a lot,” Barton said.
That tradition continues today. Visitors meet at the rock shop, caravan up the hill in their cars to a section of the mine, and get a brief geology and history lesson from the tour guide. Then the fun begins. People can hunt for garnet and other rocks before returning to the Gore Mountain Mineral Shop to pay for their finds: $1 per pound of rocks and gemstones.
The Barton Garnet Mine Tours are available daily from late June to Labor Day. In the fall, they run from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays after Labor Day to Oct. 7. Tours leave on the hour.
The rates are: Adults, $11.95; children 7-14, $7.95; seniors 6089, $10.95; children 0-6 and seniors 90+, free.
The Barton Garnet Mine Tour is located on the Barton Mines Road in North River. Call (518) 251-2706 or visit online at www.garnetminetours.com for more information.
Barton Mines history
Henry Hudson Barton began his garnet mining operations in the North River area in 1878, at first leasing the land and then buying property around Gore Mountain in 1887. At the time, Barton owned a coated abrasive company in Philadelphia, Pa. and discovered that crushed garnet from the North Creek area was a perfect ingredient for sand paper. The first mill at Gore Mountain was built in 1924.
Today, Barton International (formerly called Barton Mines Company LLC) continues to mine garnet and process the mineral for a wide variety of industrial applications all over the world. The facility makes products for waterjet cutting, coated and bonded abrasives, and specialty lapping (see www.barton.com). Mining and milling operations are located at North River, and the sales, logistics and accounting offices are located in Glens Falls.
In its 2009 Minerals Yearbook, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that only four companies accounted for all the production of industrial garnet in the U.S. in 2008: one company in Idaho, one in Montana and two in New York. The two in New York were Barton International and NYCO Minerals, Inc., based in Willsboro. New York is the second largest industrial garnet producing state in the U.S.