During a walk around his Holtville neighborhood with family members, 8-year-old Alonzo Valenzuela said he once found some sea shells. But more often he can be seen stooping to examine rocks. Lumpy ones, smooth ones, big and little, light and dark ones.
“I like rocks because they look so beautiful,” Alonzo said.
Nor is Alonzo alone in his professed love of inanimate mineral deposits. Plenty of others who gathered Saturday at the Imperial Valley Desert Museum for a presentation titled “Ocotillo Rocks!” could be accused of having similar sentiments.
The presentation was hosted by the Imperial Valley Gem and Mineral Society and was sponsored by Rogers & Rogers Toyota and Nissan.
Seventy-three year-old Kansas resident Gary Rebel said it was not long after he traded his diapers for pants with pockets did he become an enthusiastic rock collector. Rebel said he has been coming to the area for the past 50 years to do a little fishing and gold prospecting.
Precious stones recovered from the Valley often find their way into jewelry that he and his wife sell at rock shows throughout the Western states. While he said he has had some luck finding gold in the area, the booty doesn’t compare to the nuggets he has found in Colorado.
Gold played a large part in bringing outside settlers to the Valley in the late 1800s, said Joe Rodrigues, with the Imperial Valley Gem and Mineral Society. Water was only diverted to the area after a small but determined camp of gold miners had established themselves in the eastern parts of the county, Rodrigues said.
During Rodrigues’ hour-long presentation, about 100 attendees of all ages got to hear about the historic and geologic forces that contributed to the landscape of the Valley. While the Valley’s elevation resides near sea level, the earth’s actual bedrock can be found some 2,000 feet below ages of sediment washed into the region from an overflowing Colorado River, Rodrigues said.
Much of the Valley’s geographic charm and settlement owes its existence to the Colorado River, he said.
“Without it none of us would be here,” Rodrigues said, noting that the area had been under both fresh and ocean water during various times in the past.
A prevalence of fault lines and a smattering of volcanoes also add to the Valley’s topographical diversity, Rodrigues said.
Once the presentation ended, children and adults were given small handheld camcorders to record their rock-hunting foray in the dry wash bed that runs behind the museum in Ocotillo.
“This is all about science and I came here to learn,” said Jace Toth, 8, of El Centro, as he scurried about in search of something to take home. However, Jace, along with two young companions, were quick to discard a few rocks they believed to be “snake poop.”
Julio Morales can be reached at 760-335-4665 or at email@example.com
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