The fiery geologic beginnings of our region have left treasure sites galore for those who enjoy the hunt. From obsidian to thundereggs, we’ve got ’em, and many search sites are on public land just waiting for you.
Your search starts here
Meet other rockhounds
To see the rocks and minerals you hope to find — including petrified wood, jasper, crystals and agate — go to one of several rock shops in the region (see map at right) or attend the Prineville Rockhound Pow Wow at the Crook County Fairgrounds on June 25-28. It’s free, open to the public and offers field trips on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday’s trip is to Richardson’s Rock Ranch, Saturday’s is to Joe McDonald’s Ranch and Sunday’s is to Little Bear Creek. For details, call 541-546-9473.
There are also shows in Madras, July 1-5, and Sisters, July 2-5. The Madras Gem and Mineral Show, at Jefferson County Fairgrounds, focuses on rocks and includes field trips. The Sisters Roundup of Gems, at Sisters Elementary School, focuses more on jewelry.
Do your prep work
• The map. There’s a rockhounding map that focuses on Central Oregon. Get yours through the Prineville Chamber of Commerce, the Bureau of Land Management in Prineville or the Ochoco National Forest. For their addresses, phone numbers and Web sites, or to view the rockhounding map, go to www.fs.fed.us/r6/centraloregon/recreation/rockhounding.
• The back of the map. There’s a good explanation of the rocks and minerals found in the region, directions to the public sites, a code of ethics and more. You’ll want to read it to know what’s out there and how to stay inside the law.
• The list. Now go to www.orerockon.com, which stands for Oregon Rockhounds Online. There, you’ll find a list of areas in Oregon and the kinds of rocks and minerals you can find in each.
• The history. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries site, www.oregon.gov/DOGAMI, digs into the past and explains how some of the region’s most popular specimens — thundereggs, obsidian, jasper, agate and sunstone — came to be.
Now go hunting
Even if you’ve got the map and know what you want to find, Richardson’s Rock Ranch might be the best place in the area to start out on your own.
It’s rockhounding with training wheels. The folks there direct you, cut your finds and can even do the digging for you. Once at the ranch, outside Madras, they’ll point you to the agate beds, where you can chip away till you find thundereggs and ledge agate.
The thunderegg, Oregon’s state rock (which technically isn’t a rock), is a dull, knobby sphere until you cut it open and reveal its core. Some are duds inside, too; but others are full of colorful crystals. You won’t know until you cut them open. Luckily, Richardson’s will do that for you. Take your finds back to the shop and they’ll slice them for a minimal fee.
See www.richardsonrockranch.com for directions and more info. Call ahead if it’s been raining, 541-475-2680. But go this week if you want to make Dad a thunderegg bolo tie for Father’s Day.
Next installment: Meet Woody