Rare Gems and Minerals in Washington

Rare Gems and Minerals in Washington
Washington is a rock collectors paradise. There are many different gems and minerals that can be found here. There are many remote locations that require hiking to access but will still produce some nice quality specimens of a variety of types.

Petrified Wood

Petrified wood is the state gem of Washington. It can be found all throughout the state.

The most well-known site for petrified wood in the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park is in Vantage, Washington. This is a very rare petrified forest where the wood is found imbedded in basalts. Unlike many petrified forests which were believed to have been covered by lava flows, the now petrified trees found in the Gingko Forest are thought to have been submerged underwater, which preserved them in wonderful condition.

Saddle Mountain is Grant County is a popular area for collectors to search for petrified wood. Some of the specimens found here have opalized wood. Itís a well-known rock hounding area located on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, a few miles east of Mattawa on Hwy 24. There are chances of coming across opalized wood too.

Since some of the land is privately owned, itís important to pay attention to any notices in the area. The west end of the Saddle Mountains provides larger tracts of BLM-managed lands compared to the east end where there are more private claims. † The best time to access the area is during spring and fall to avoid snow or rain that may occasionally make navigation on the dirt roads impossible.

Umtanum Creek in the winding canyon between Ellensberg and Yakima, this area has basalt cliffs that contain petrified wood in varying tones of browns, tans, and even creams. Actually, all the ridges on both sides of the river can be productive for the keen eyed (look out for pits and tailings left behind by rockhounders). You will notice rockhound trails in some areas in the scenic winding canyon.

From Ellensberg, take I-90 southeast onto exit 110 and continue on I-82. Use Exit 3 for Thrall Road and turn right onto SR 821, then left (southeast) onto 821 towards Yakima Canyon. After about eight miles, park at Umtanum Creek Recreation Site (BLM charges a fee for using the parking lot) and use the swinging bridge to cross the Yakima River. Turn left at the junction and follow the trail.

There are many sites where petrified wood is found that have received very little attention. You can find specimens searching along riverbeds in much of the state.

Amethyst/Quartz Crystal

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In Snohomish County, you can find quartz crystals at Cedar Ponds near Sultan. Most of the crystals here are clear, but occasionally amethysts are also found. Some locations where the crystals are found are very remote and require extensive hiking to find them. Hiking and getting away from the crowds will often help you find them better specimens.

There are quite a few places in King County where quartz can be found. Several locations around North Bend are popular for exploring. Quartz varieties found are generally clear or smoky, but occasionally nice purple amethysts are also found. Denny Canyon is one of the good areas to look, as well as Bessemer Ridge.

Less than an hourís drive from Seattle, Hansen Creek is one of the best locations for beautiful purple amethyst and quartz crystals. From I 90 East towards Snoqualmie Pass, take exit 47 and turn into NF-55. Follow NF-5510 to Hansen Creek on the Humpback Mountain Trailhead. † Walking the trails may be surprisingly productive whenever the rain has exposed the gems, however, exploring the steep slope and beneath tree stumps may be more rewarding. The basic tools for this adventure include a rock hammer, shovel, gloves and a headlamp. † Itís easy to miss the amethysts (they tend to be light in color) and the quartz crystals if they are covered in clay, until you wash them off. The ground is very steep in some areas and can be unstable where itís been heavily dug. Caution is needed in such instances to ensure a stable footing.

Over the mountains in Okanogan County is another excellent area to explore and search for crystals. Quite a few locations will produce fine quality specimens if you look hard enough.

Additional collecting sites are found in Kittitas County, Lewis County, and Pend Orielle County, among others.

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Washington is also ranked among the places in the United States of America where the stone can be found. Sightings of jasper have been located in areas like; Clallam County, Grays harbor County, Jefferson County, Klickitat County, Lewis County, Pacific County and Skamania County.

The shorelines of the Pacific Ocean will turn up lots of agates and jaspers. Orbicular jasper, also commonly called Poppy jasper is also quite common to find. They are beautiful and really look beautiful if you polish them in a rock tumbler.

Just about any creek in the Cascade Mountains will likely produce nice jasper material.


Agates are abundant throughout Washington State and are one of the most popular stones for collectors to search for. There are countless locations where beautiful agates occur.

The bars along the Columbia River are great places to search for agates. These stones are generally smooth and polished with nice colors. Near Richland and Pasco is one place where it can be easy to find them in the right areas.

The ocean beaches are perhaps the most popular place to search for agates. They can be found just about anywhere along the coast, although there are certain beaches that have a good reputation for being especially productive. Some nice amber colored agate specimens are known to occur around Damon Point. The beaches along the Olympic Peninsula at Agate Beach will also produce some nice finds.

Timing the tides will help you when searching for agates at the beaches in Washington. Looking after winter storms is generally the most productive.


Washington is one of the few states in the U.S. that produces Jade. There are some nice jade specimens that are found from time to time, and they can be quite valuable. Some high quality pieces are even exported to Asia for that collectors market. However, many specimens are of little value, and not all jade is created equal.

Jade is one of its kind gemstone that is found in metamorphic rock. Jadeites are a peculiar kind of rock that hosts compounds like sodium rich pyroxene and is a hard stone. On the other hand, nephrite, another form of Jade is a softer stone, consists of prism like structure made of calcium, magnesium iron and some more impurities.

The basic green color of Jade comes from the amount of iron present in the stone. However, Jade is also available in black, orange, grey, yellow-brownish, blue, mauve, pink-lavender and white.

In ancient times, jade was used in making armory tools. The name of the stone is derived from a Spanish word ďpiedra de ijadaĒ, which means ďloin stoneĒ. In the spiritual world of gemstones, Jade is known as the stone of attraction. It is believed to have properties that attract money and love towards one. The gem has also been associated with the healing of kidney stones since the prehistoric period.

Jade is actually found in both forms in Washington; jadeite and nephrite. Most people assume all jade is light green, but it actually comes in a variety of colors such as black, grey, olive, yellow, etc.

There are quite a few locations where it can be found, such as Whidby Island near Oak Harbor, along the Skagit River, Deer Creek near Oso, river banks around Wenatchee, and the Blewett Pass area are all known locations where jade can be found. The best places to search are bars along rivers and creeks.


The lava buttes in the Wind River locality, which is about 17 miles north of Carson are said to contain some opals. Precious opal is also found in the Lincoln County and common opal in the Quincy region of Grant County.

The basalt flow that occurs in Washington appears to have served as confining layers for silica-rich water distribution in underlying sediments. For opal deposit to be formed, a source for soluble silica is required.

The first significant opal discovery in the United States was near Whelan, Washington. Some specimens were recovered by a farmer digging a well. For a short time there was a rush to the area, and gem miners were searching for opals. This was relatively short lived, and most of the opals from this location were mined out.


In addition to the abundant petrified wood that can be found all throughout Washington, other types of fossils also occur here.

The most famous fossil in Washington is the Columbian Mammoth, a beast that roamed the state over a million years ago. Tusks and skeletons have been found on the Olympic Peninsula.

Crab fossils of excellent quality have been found in southwest Washington in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This area also has an abundance of other marine fossils including clams, coral, shells, and sea snakes.

Murdock Beach is on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This location lacks the aura of a typical beach. Instead it is filled with fossils and rocks that are millions of years old, making it a favorite site for rockhounds. Itís advisable to visit at low tide when a large part of the shoreline is exposed, revealing fresh materials. † To reach Murdock Beach from Port Angeles, take State Route 101 west and turn right onto State Route 112. Continue on State Route 112 for 16 miles and turn right onto a gravel road (look out for a yellow school bus turnaround sign by the roadside). Follow the gravel road for 0.3 miles and turn right on PA-S-2510. This will take you straight to the trailhead leading to the beach.

Plant and insect fossils can also be found in numerous locations throughout the state.

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