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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