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"let's Go to Souris." "let's Go to Souris." "souris? Do You Have Rocks in Your Head!"

At the Eadie household, you will not hear the second statement in the title. Souris, Manitoba, is a small town in the southwest corner of the province not too far from the International Peace Gardens. Within one hundred kilometers travelers will find Brandon, Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, Glenboro, and Spruce Woods Provincial Park. The town's significant features to tourists and Rock hounds alike are the longest suspension bridge in Canada and the finest open gravel pit in North America.

Yes gravel pit. Our family vacation involves going to Souris every summer or fall to pick rocks from the dirt and sand instead of emptying my head of those rocks. There are semiprecious stones to be found amongst the millions of other stones in the dirt and sand. Because the stones can be obtained without a big rock pick and hammer, the effort merely requires patience and ability to stretch a bit. It is ideal for kids, seniors and just plain rock hounds.

Souris is unique in that it has deposits of several kinds of minerals. Those who study these things say the Souris pit has deposits from the Rocky Mountains, Black Hills of South Dakota, Montana, Northern Manitoba, and Hudson Bay near the North West coast of Quebec.

The following stones can be found in the pit: petrified wood, agate, chalcedony, jasper, quartz, sandstone, epidote, pumice, and basalts. Agate is a translucent rock which is made of silica type crystal. Jasper is a colored, opaque agate, and petrified wood is a piece of tree that had the wood fiber replaced by silica crystal and other minerals under great pressure. Epidote is a solid colored stone that is pleasing to the eye and touch. Some of the stones can have fossils on and inside them. Basalts can be found in colors like red, yellow, and greenish grey. Pumice stones can be found in people's washrooms used for scrapping off callused skin on their feet.

My delight with the pit is the fact you can find the stones without being able to see. In an underground mine, the precious stones must be chiseled or picked out from solid rock. Now in Souris, most of the precious stones have a soapy texture from the fine sand clinging to the outside of agate, jasper, and epidote. Petrified wood can be both soapy and have distinct textures as a result of the bark or shape of the wood.

My hands are constantly moving through the dirt and sand searching for that soft, soapy feeling stone. Some of the stones can be rather ugly but feel really nice. It can be somewhat disappointing if you find something that feels great, and you are told to toss it away. These non-visually appealing stones can be used for pocket rocks and rock garden fill.

All the rocks provide an education to young and old. It is truly amazing to find such a variety of interesting stones. Our youngest son picks rocks with cool shapes instead of just semiprecious stones.

Equipment required for rock picking is simple: one or two 3 gallon pails for rocks; one three or five gallon pail for water to clean the stones off; hat to prevent sun stroke as it can get quite hot in the pit; balaclava in case the wind is blowing causing sand to start flying around; and an optional cloth to wipe stones (my wife was not impressed with the streak of sand and dirt down the front of my shirt.). Bring plenty of drinking water as well. Smaller pails can be used if you are a long way from home.

To get into the pit, you need to stop at The Souris Rock Shop to purchase your ten dollar permit. Kelly Krawchuk (the owner) is an enthusiastic rockbound and accomplished rock artist. The shop is about one kilometer from the pit, and the people at the shop will give you verbal instructions and a map.

Try to picture a big pit in the middle of a prairie, with the Souris river, Plum Creek and park just off in the distance. You can hear people playing baseball at the park. This park is located by the longest suspension bridge in Canada. After a half day or more in the pit, the park offers a place to barbecue and relax. Or maybe you will be staying at the Rock Shop's bed and breakfast in a large house in town.

The pit is alive with sound even when the equipment is not there. Walls surrounding the pit are steep, twelve to sixteen foot rises. When the wind blows, the sand is blown away and the gravel and stones fall causing mini avalanches. Rock, dirt, and sand constantly move and change the look of the pit. Do not let your kids trick you into going up the wall and walk along the edges. There is no real easy way down as my wife and I discovered. During the week days there are trucks to watch out for, but the traffic stays away from the section most people pick over.

So what do we do with the stones you ask? We polish them in lapidary equipment purchased at the Rock Shop. Rocks can make great gifts. Some Web page references follow with a lot more information about Souris, rock hounding, lapidary processes and places to contact for other interesting vacation trips. The Eadie's might be off to a underground mine in Thunderbay where Amethyst can be found. Watch out for those flying rock picks.

City of Souris

The Rock Shop (204) 483-2561

Canadian Rockhound


Just returned from Souris yesterday after spending a full day with my 3 grandsons in the rock was a wonderful time and so interesting, a precious time we will always remember and the treasures we found were many! Everyone got dirty but that was part of the fun of it!!!!! Fantastic experience for all 4 of us!!!!!!!

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