Touring the Barton Garnet Mine

All About Barton Mines

Mining is an integral part of the Town of Johnsburg’s history, and it’s still a key industry in Gore Region. The area is rich in natural mineral deposits, and is known for its garnet deposits in particular.

Garnet rocks in the Barton Mine
Garnet rocks in the Barton Mine

The historic Barton Mines in Johnsburg boast one of the largest garnet deposits worldwide. Its garnet is known for its vibrant ruby-red color, large crystal size, and hardness. In 1969, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller designated Barton garnet as the New York State Gemstone.

Barton Mines was established by founder Henry Hudson Barton in 1878.

Photo of Henry Hudson Barton who founded Barton Mines
Henry Hudson Barton founded Barton Mines

Its original mine was located near the summit of Gore Mountain in North Creek. Barton Mines, which has evolved to become the BARTON corporation, operated out of the Gore Mountain mine for 104 years. It moved operations to its current site at nearby Ruby Mountain in 1982. The company also began offering garnet mine tours in 1933, which continue to draw locals and tourists alike, as well as geologists from all over the world.

Garnet Mine Tours are offered in North Creek, New York
Garnet Mine Tours are offered in North Creek, New York

Along with being popular for jewelry-making and other decorative uses, garnet is used as sandpaper abrasive, as a fine powder in glass grinding, and in abrasive waterjet cutting. BARTON supplies sandpaper manufacturers, woodworkers, glass manufacturers, and producers of waterjet cutting equipment with garnet abrasives on the domestic and international markets.

Barton garnet is used in a water jet to create this jewelry
Barton garnet is used in a water jet to create this jewelry

“This Holly Yashi jewelry in our shop is all made by cutting with a CNC machine using our garnet,” says Bonnie Barton, who is now in charge of her family’s Barton garnet mine tours.

Holly Yashi Earrings in Barton Garnet Mines Gift Shop
Holly Yashi Earrings

Garnet Mine Tours

“The average garnet measures a 6.5 on the hardness scale, but Adirondack garnet is a 9,” explains tour guide Dylan Moore. “Geologists are still attempting to figure out what makes the garnet in the Adirondacks so much harder than average garnet.” You can see iron at the top of the chasm, the rust-colored cliffs where they started to dig with hand tools before blasting later on.

Iron is seen in the rust-colored cliffs behind tour guides Caleb Buck, left, and Dylan Moore, right.
Iron is seen in the rust-colored cliffs behind tour guides Caleb Buck, left, and Dylan Moore, right.

“Hornblende is the host rock for garnet, like coal is for a diamond,” says Mr. Moore. That’s what gives our garnet the pocket sizes, the large amount of hornblende we have here.” You can see the ring around the garnet in these rocks — that’s hornblende.

A hornblende ring around a garnet deposit
A hornblende ring around a garnet deposit

Mr. Moore’s father and grandfather worked for Barton, as well as his uncle and cousin, he says. His father helped with getting Ruby Mountain ready to be mined. William Moore, a possible ancestor, was Henry Hudson Barton’s hunting guide who helped lead him to find the garnet on Gore Mountain.

“Bonnie showed me a newspaper story she had involving the early days of Barton’s that confirmed this and mentioned how Mr. Moore was even a manager of one half of the mine with his name attached, to keep it a secret from competitors as to where they were getting the garnet from,” he adds. “As a kid, I was brought to the mineral shop multiple times when family from other states came to visit.” In high school, he started working for Bonnie in the shop.

Jewelry in the Barton Garnet Mine Tours gift shop
Jewelry in the mineral shop

Touring the mine involves a stop at the mineral shop, a guided caravan to the mine, and a lesson on how to find garnets by dumping water on the ground to wash away the other minerals.

To mine for garnet, you pour water on the ground to wash away the other minerals.
To mine for garnet, you pour water on the ground to wash away the other minerals.

The wide open canyon is flat and accessible for all ages and abilities, and it’s easy to find small chips of garnet as they are glittering underfoot everywhere you look.

Mining for garnet is a family-friendly activity at Barton Garnet Mines
Mining for garnet is a family-friendly activity
Garnet chips glitter underfoot everywhere you look, and are available to collect for a nominal fee
Garnet chips glitter underfoot everywhere you look, and are available to collect for a nominal fee

If you get lucky, you might find something that’s of gemstone quality, which Mr. Moore describes as being caramel-colored, the size of a thumbnail or bigger, with no fractures inside of it. Any rock and gemstones collected can be taken home for just $1.79 per pound.

The mine is a beautiful photo op waiting to happen, with steep cliffs where the land was blasted, and picturesque pools of water that Mr. Moore says were not so beautiful when they were accidentally struck and all of the equipment had to get out in a hurry.

The scenic Barton Garnet Mine with steep cliffs and water
The scenic mine with steep cliffs and water

The mineral shop has gifts, free apples this time of year, sand art using garnets, beautiful jewelry and lots of history to take in.

The Barton Mines mineral shop
The Barton Mines mineral shop

Tours are offered Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 13, and the season opens again in June seven days a week. Visit the website for schedules and information, to listen to the Barton Mine Song, and to find a $3 off coupon. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

BARTON remains a family-owned company as it has been for seven generations. It’s recognized as a global leader in the production of the high-quality garnet and mineral abrasives.

Tour guides. Left to right, back row: Brian Hewitt, Camron Brown-Allen, Dylan Moore. Front row: Jaxson Roblee, Noah Pooler, Caleb Buck, and Aidan Connelly.
Tour guides. Left to right, back row: Brian Hewitt, Camron Brown-Allen, Dylan Moore. Front row: Jaxson Roblee, Noah Pooler, Caleb Buck, and Aidan Connelly.