Metaline Quarry – September 2022

Metaline Quarry

We have been wanting to go to this quarry for years, ever since seeing it mentioned in Gem Trails of Washington. In the book, a map merely points out a spot and lists “Trilobites?”.

The reason it’s taken us years to make it out here, despite it being relatively close, about 2 hours away, is that to access the quarry one must drive through a locked gate. The gate is opened by the gracious landowner, whose property is cut by the road to the quarry, only for club trips. We were invited to go along with the Northwest Paleontological Association, which has a standing trip to the quarry every September. When we visited Stonerose Fossil site, we met Greg, an fossil enthusiast who was the one who invited us and showed us around the quarry.

The specimens from this quarry that are available to reference, such as those in local museums, are unimpressive. After our top-notch trilobite finding experience in Utah at the U-Dig Trilobite Quarry, our desire to fossil hunt at the quarry lessened, but we still jumped at the chance when it came around.

Lucky we did, because the specimens that we found and that others found while we were there were much better than anything we had seen. They aren’t quite as durable and abundant as the U-Dig trilobites, but impressive nonetheless.

We only explored the lower portion of the quarry; the quarry is quite extensive. We learned that splitting rocks was not worth the time, the best tactic was to simply turn over already split rocks. We found some good specimens, although mostly lower halves and partial bodies, not many complete fossils.

In addition to the trilobite fossils, in the quarry we found pyrite, calcite, and barite druzy. Greg, our guide and expert, identified the fossil remains of excrement from a larger animal that ate trilobites.

The quarry was operated as a limestone quarry in the early 1900s, and the road up to the quarry pit passes the site of the old hammer mill. As with many historic mine sites, not much cleanup was done when operations ceased. All over the ground near the old hammer mill area were large metal balls that were used to grind the limestone, as well as other old metal relics.