Oregon is a rock collectors paradise, with a wide variety of different minerals found throughout the state, including some that are found nowhere else on Earth. Regardless of where you live in Oregon, there are places nearby where you can locate interesting minerals and fossils. Below are a few of Oregon's most popular.
The Oregon Sunstone is the official state gemstone, and is a very popular gem that originates from south-central Oregon. They are located in certain basalt flows in Lake County and Harney County. A few deposits of the sunstone in the state of Oregon are large enough to sustain commercial mining operations.
Most of the sunstones in Oregon are produced from the weathered zone that is above the basalt flow and some produced from the basalt flow. The basalt flow of Oregon that contains the stone are mainly located on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and many productive areas are under active mining claims.
In Lake County, the Bureau of Land Management has reserved one area for the public to access. Anybody can access this area, collect and keep any crystal they are able to find. Contact the Lakeview BLM for additional information about collecting sites.
The gemstone has been known for hundreds of years and was discovered by Native Americans who treasured it. These Native Americans also widely traded the crystals would even bury the stones with their dead.
The common use of the gemstone for lapidary in US began in the early 1900s. Tiffany and Company at that time acquired mining claims near the community of Plush, Oregon. They opened a commercial sunstone mine there that was the first in the United States of America and produced jewelry with sunstone cabochons and faceted sunstone. The clear stones were called “Plush Diamonds” at the time.
New deposits of the stone were discovered in the early 1980s. These new deposits were capable of sustaining commercial mining operations. These new discoveries witnessed a renewed interest in the beautiful stone for the people of Oregon, and it soon got the official declaration as the state gemstone by the Oregon legislatures.
Sunstone is known as “heliolite”. In Greek, it is called “lithos” and “helios” which respectively means sun and stone. Oregon Sunstone is well known even among innovative jewelry designers.
The stones themselves are a translucent to transparent feldspar that gives flashes of metal bright colors when light rays interacts with tiny plate-like mineral inclusions that is deposited within the stone. These mineral inclusions that are found within the stone usually have common orientation, and a light ray that penetrates the stone reflects at a common angle.
In the eyes of an observer who views the crystal from a proper angle, flashes of light are generated. This phenomenon is called “aventurescence”.
There was an increase in patronage of the crystal produced especially in the state of Oregon due to this development. The Oregon Sunstone is very popular and common in the stores of Oregon, while in jewelry stores in most part of the world it is rarely seen.
You can dig for Oregon sunstones at several pay-to-dig sites including the Dust Devil Mine, Spectrum Mine and Double Eagle Mine.
There are a wide variety of jaspers in Oregon that you can collect.
Biggs jasper is one of the most popular found in the state. Located near Biggs in Sherman County, it is stunning dark picture jasper that displays beautifully when polished. Deschutes jasper is another fine mineral that comes from the same general area and has a similar appearance to Biggs jasper. It is found near the Deschutes River east of Biggs Junction.
Owyhee Jasper is another gorgeous form of jasper that is found in Oregon near the Oregon/Idaho border in Malheur County. The main collecting sites are located just south of Homedale along Highway 95 and near Owyhee Reservoir. It is famous for the beautiful “desert scenery” that can be seen in the jasper when it is cut and polished.
There are many other varieties of jasper found at select locations throughout Oregon, primarily in the eastern portion of the state.
The Shellrock Mountain and Western Vein in the Bohemia Mining District is known to have Amethyst deposits. The Bohemia area is best known for gold mining, but other minerals can also be found in this area.
There are numerous varieties of the stone produced in Oregon. They range from blue, dendritic, crystal, hyalite, rainbow and others. Some of Oregon’s finest opals are found at Opal Butte in Morrow County.
Owyhee blue opal is found in eastern Oregon. It is a pale blue color and will turn opaque when exposed to the air.
On rare occasions, opal can be found within thunder eggs that occur in eastern Oregon. These are rare finds and highly valued by collectors.
There is decent potential to find petrified wood nearly anywhere in Oregon, though most of the popular digging areas are on the west side of the Cascades. You can find pieces of pertrified wood in most of the streams between Portland and Eugene, with some of the best areas to find it around the towns of Lebanon, Scio, LaComb, and Gates.
The Holleywood Ranch in Holley has abundant deposit of high grade petrified wood located in the Pacific Northwest. Over 65 species has been identified by researchers in the ranch so far. Deposits of the stone have also been sighted in the “Sweet Home Petrified Forest” in the eastern side of Willamette Valley in Lincoln County.
East of the Cascades has lots of petrified wood also. The Ochoco Forest is a good area to look, as well as the deserts in eastern and south-central Oregon. Remember, things looked very different millions of years ago than they do today, and large pieces of petrified wood can be found far from areas that have trees today.
Thunder eggs might be the most popular mineral to look for in the state of Oregon, where they are found in several locations. One of the most fun thing about finding thunder eggs is that their true beauty is not realized until they are broken into. When they are found intact and unbroken they can look unassuming and area easily overlooked if you aren’t careful.
Thunder eggs are nodules that contain pockets of crystals, most often agate, chalcedony, and on rare occasion, opal.
One area to find thunder eggs is at Succor Creek in eastern Oregon. These are most often baseball sized nodules that generally contain white or clear crystals.
Another site where Oregon thunder eggs can be found is near the Nevada border at the town of McDermitt.
Central Oregon also has some locations where thunder eggs can be found. Unfortunately, one of the best areas to find them is in Desolation Canyon in the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville, which is now within a wilderness area where collecting in forbidden. However, there are some select areas around Prineville where you can legally search for them.
There are quite a few different minerals and fossils that can be found while walking the beaches along the Oregon Coast. Nice agates can be found after large storms along the coast. The best times to look for them are after big storms in the winter.
While it is possible to find agate and other minerals anywhere along the coast, there are a handful of select areas that are known to be more productive such as south of Cannon Beach, beaches at Tillamook and Netarts, south of Otter Rock, and the coastline between Yachats and Florence.
In southern Oregon, agates and fossils can be found from the mouth of Sixes River down to Gold Beach.