Feeling Lucky at the Lucky Lake Gem Mine
"I've found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often." -Brian Tracy
We woke up feeling lucky. Our rock theme continued on Wednesday as we wandered an easy hour south of Richmond to the Lucky Lake Gem Mine in McKenney, Virginia, to learn about geology and to try our hand at sluicing.
The Lucky Lake Gem Mine comes with a great story behind it. Owner Barry Resnick and his brothers and sisters wanted to memorialize their deceased mother Mildred in a way that was bigger than a marker or a plaque. Thus, in 1997, with the 30-year anniversary of her death approaching in the next year, they decided they would build her a lake on the family farm. Little did they know that Lake Mildred would be just the beginning. Upon digging the lake, they struck rock and quickly noticed the different rock colors: pink, black and white. The family ended up consulting with a geologist who told them the lake site was rich with minerals and gem rock -- with 25 different gems and minerals later identified, including gold and even a diamond! And thus, the siblings decided to create what they call a "recreational and educational mine", appropriately naming it the "Lucky Lake Gem Mine." Upon arriving at Lucky Lake, Mr. Barry effusively greeted us and gave us the history of the mine, educated us on the volcanic activity that created the stone layers and showed us samples of the types of gems and minerals found there. He even set up a microscope so the kids could see the gold flecks in a sample rock. (Under magnification, the gold looked like a snowflake!) He then led us outside to show us a 100-foot covered flume where visitors can sift through buckets of dirt and rock to see what they can discover. Available for purchase are buckets of varying size that potentially contain fossils or gem stones. We chose one fossil bucket and one gem stone bucket and sat down to sluice (or rinse) the dirt in screened containers. My kids were delighted treasure hunters as they found fossil after fossil in the first bucket, including shark teeth and fossilized snail shells. Mr. Chuck, one of the wonderful employees of the mine, engaged us with stories of the mine, happily helped us identify our finds and ensured we did not throw away any dirt or rock that might contain a treasure. He even pulled out an antique loupe magnifying glass to show the kids the gold flecks on some of the rocks they found. The second bucket revealed all sorts of gems and minerals, including amethyst and white topaz stones. The particular gem bucket that we purchased came with one free stone cutting by a certified on-staff gemologist. We decided to have the amethyst stone cut (which takes about three weeks and can be mailed to you). It was a fun adventure and the truly good folks at Lucky Lake certainly made us feel welcomed!
Bring lunch as there is a picnic area.
Wear old clothes that can get wet and dirty and don't forget your camera!
We did not bring lunch so we stopped at the nearby Flat Rock Grocery (think tiny, very rustic rural market and meeting place). In the back of the Grocery is a small kitchen where a local cook is frying up some amazing fried chicken. We thus stopped in for lunch and ended up have a lovely conversation with a local farmer and his wife at the table next to us. Again, the key of "wandering" is to meet new people and ask them their stories. These kind folks told us about a nearby hardware store called Bevell's Hardware in Blackstone that is famous for their Christmas Holiday Train Display that apparently takes months to erect each year and draws crowds from all over the state. Nottoway County schools and surrounding county schools have been bringing their primary classes as one of their field trips each year to see this display. We plan to add this to our "Wandering" list in December!
The Lucky Lake Gem and Mineral Mine of Virginia
4125 Harpers Road
McKenney, VA 23872
Flat Rock Grocery
6203 McKenney Hwy Mc Kenney, VA 23872
Phone number (804) 478-5161