North River Johnsburg is an all-American town, known widely for its red, white and blue.
In the spring and summer, thousands of visitors paddle and raft down the blue waters of the mighty Hudson River. In the winter, thousands more ski and snowboard down the white slopes of the Gore Mountain ski center and the Garnet Hill Lodge. And for more than a century, the Barton family’s Gore Mountain mine has produced the official gem stone of New York state, garnet, also known as the “Adirondack Ruby.”
And families interested in hunting for their own garnet can take the Barton Garnet Mine Tour, meeting at the Gore Mountain Mineral Shop on the Barton Mines Road in North River.
The world’s largest garnet ore deposits can be found on the western slopes of Gore Mountain in Warren County, where Barton International has been mining the reddish mineral for industrial use since 1878.
The Barton family has been in the mine tour business since 1933.
“One of the Barton family members as a young boy started it by selling rocks out of a front-end loader originally,” said host Bonnie Barton. “And then one of the mine buildings was relocated to where we have our mineral shop now.”
That building was the Whoopee House, the former base lodge for the old Barton Slopes rope-tow ski center at the Barton Mines. It was built for the winter of 1940-41. The ski hill was last used for the 1950-51 season, and the Whoopee House was later moved to its current location at the Barton Mines entrance gate.
“They opened that (building) up for high school-aged students to have summer jobs and sell rocks and start telling people the history and geology of the mines, and it’s just evolved a lot,” Barton said.
That tradition continues today. Visitors meet at the rock shop, caravan up the hill in their cars to a section of the mine, and get a brief geology and history lesson from the tour guide. Then the fun begins. People can hunt for garnet and other rocks before returning to the Gore Mountain Mineral Shop to pay for their finds: $1 per pound of rocks and gemstones.