July 12, 2012 in Washington Voices

Families explore geology at Livingstone’s Rock Ranch

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

From left, triplets, Kaitlin, Briana and Ashleigh Creeger, 11, and Jenna Fonteyne, 10, dig for quartz and fluorite crystals, agate, obsidian, petrified wood and more at Livingstone’s Rock Ranch Friday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

If you go

Coming up

Livingstone’s Rock Ranch, 4216 S. Saltese Lake Road, is open by appointment. Call at least one day in advance; (509) 270-9076. Admission is $15 per person.

Livingstone’s Rock Ranch will have several special events over the course of the year.

Thunder Eggs and Petrified Wood Dig: July 28 and 29, learn about mineralization in petrified wood and thunder eggs. Visitors can also learn how the Rock Ranch cuts and polishes trophy finds.

Collecting Crystals: Aug. 25 and 26, learn about how to find and collect crystals including quartz, fluorite, fool’s gold and more.

Ancient Glaciers, Cataclysmic Floods, Oceans of Basalt: Sept. 29 and 30, visitors can see the remnants and impact of glaciers, floods and basalt floods and dig through soil to find agates, jaspers, garnets and more.

A Rock Ranch Christmas: Nov. 24 and 25, special discounts on beaded artwork and Christmas ornaments, coffee, cookies and cocoa. Free museum tours and a free Christmas gift for every junior geologist.

All events require registration in advance. Call (509) 270-9076.

Summer activities

This summer, we’ll feature fun things to do with your kids throughout the greater Spokane Valley area.

If you have any suggestions of things to do, call Lisa Leinberger at (509) 459-5449 or email lisal@spokesman.com.

Jenna Fonteyne, 10, showed off her finds after spending an hour digging in the dirt.

“I thought it was just a plain old rock,” she said, surprised to find out it was really a garnet.

Last Friday, Fonteyne and her friends spent the afternoon at Livingstone’s Rock Ranch, a museum, dig site and gift shop in Greenacres dedicated to teaching families about geology.

Owner Steve Livingstone, a retired family entertainment entrepreneur, opened the ranch four summers ago after collecting 100 tons of lapidary rock that can be cut for jewelry. He had been studying geology at Spokane Community College after his retirement and traveling to dig sites to collect his rocks.

“It’s an amusement park for rock hounds,” he said.

Visitors can learn about the different rocks Livingstone has collected over the years, learn the techniques for digging and then walk down to the dig site to find their own. Livingstone has buried much of his 100-ton collection and estimates visitors have found about 16 tons of it so far. Livingstone said he and his wife of 39 years, Debbie, have about 40 acres of land at the ranch, they utilize about 20 of them for the museum and dig.

His museum features many rocks he has cut and polished over the years. There is a collection of large jaspers, which Livingstone explains are opaque, unlike the agates, which let light come through.

The agates have been sliced thin to show off the details created when the rocks were formed.

“It’s Mother Nature’s art,” Livingstone said.

The museum also features a room lit with black light for rocks that glow in the dark such as Franklinite and calcite.

The dig sites offer visitors a chance to dig for their own rocks. None of the rocks is native to the area, but Livingstone said you can find some in other Northwest locations.

He said each visitor typically takes home about five pounds of rocks, at a value of $25 to $50.

“Everyone’s going to take home a big rock collection,” he said.

Isabella Galloway, 8, was at the ranch last week with her mother, Arlene, and brother, Jamison, 10, for their first time.

“I found some of the crystals and some of the bumpy ones,” she said of her haul.

Arlene Galloway said she heard of the ranch through another parent at Sunrise Elementary.

Kaitlin Creeger, 11, was at the ranch for the second time.

“You find arrowheads,” she said.

Debbie Livingstone makes jewelry from rocks her husband has polished and cut. They sell items in the gift shop, along with lapidary rocks from the collection.

Livingstone said his love of geology probably sprung from growing up with a father who was a chemist. He remembers collecting rocks as a kid. He tried college for a while before joining a rock band in 1970. After a year of music, he joined a carnival where he met Debbie.

He came back to the area to be close to his parents eventually, and opened a video game arcade.

It was retirement that brought him back to science.

“She (Debbie) thought it was a harmless hobby at first,” Livingstone said. “I tend to get passionate about things.”

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