Rock hounding season is here, and like many Corvallisites I’m looking forward to getting out and looking down! Adding to a long list of reasons why Corvallis rocks, there are many places both nearby and right in our own backyards to explore, collect, and exercise your mineral ambitions.
Perhaps the most popular place in Corvallis to find rocks is the gravel bars and banks of the Willamette. You can run into everything from agate to jasper to petrified wood. For easy access, try the path along the river at Crystal Lake Park by the Willamette Boat Landing.
The entrance to Al & Merles’s Rock Shop on Highway 34 (one mile after the bridge on your way out of town) feels like a hunting ground. Learn to shape and polish stones by taking a cabochon class (call them at 541-752-5085 for details), let them cut and polish your finds for you, or discover a new treasure. Al is proud to continue the rock shop tradition his dad, Merle, started here in 1971.
Neukomm’s Rock and Gem Shop at 2295 N Ninth Street (541-936-1715) is a gem, too. After a safety class, you can use all of their equipment to work on your pieces, cutting, slicing, and polishing. If that’s a little too hands-on, they can take over the job—or you could even take one of several classes they offer to get more comfortable with the process!
Sweet Home has one of the largest petrified forests in Oregon, but it’s mostly underground. Hunt around the rivers, or to increase your luck, try petrified rock ranch Holleywood (www.holleywoodranch.com). Call Brad at 541-401-0899 and set up a time to stop by—dig it yourself and pay on the way out!
Quartzville Road has iron pyrite (aka fool’s gold). From Highway 20, turn left on Quartzville Road at the end of Foster Lake. Go past Green Peter Dam. Continue past Whitcomb Creek County Park. At the first right you get to, turn and go over the bridge at Rocky Top Road. When you get to the top of the hill, you’ll see a road cut; look around there and if you’re foolishly lucky, you’ll go home with some small pieces of pyrite.
Santiam River: Go east on Highway 20 past Sweet Home toward Sisters. You’ll find lots of campgrounds and pull-offs to hunt for rocks. On your way back, stop off in Lebanon for several spots with riverbank access, including Waterloo Park (heading from Sweet Home to Lebanon on Highway 20, you’ll see a sign directing you to turn right).
The Coast: Find agates, petrified wood, jasper, even fossils! You can escape the heat all along the central coast and bring home some cool souvenirs. However, the agates at Agate Beach are covered by 15 feet of sand nowadays.
Not quite as nearby: You can find a number of thunder eggs, the Oregon state rock, at a number of locations in the eastern part of the state. Once cut, you’ll see they’re filled with beautiful agate or jasper. One great location to find them easily is at Richardson’s Rock Ranch in Madras (www.richardsonrockranch.com)—another dig-then-pay location like the Holleywood Ranch.
Join a club, go on a field trip!
Give Al (of Al’s Rock Shop, mentioned above) a call, and he’ll let you know next time he heads out to Eastern Oregon to his thunder egg claim. Or go to one of the bigger shows listed below—they offer field trips as well. And if that’s not enough, the clubs in Sweet Home and Salem have field trips, too.
Willamette Agate and Mineral Society meets monthly in Salem; www.wamsi.org
Sweet Home Rock and Gem Club meets monthly in Lebanon; contact Joe at 541-451-2740 or Cathee at email@example.com
Gem Trails of Oregon, 2009 edition, by Garret Romaine. At both local rock shops. This book will direct you to many awesome sites and it fills you in on the many different collecting limits in various regions.
To stay safe and legal, stay away from private property and refer to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Oregon State Office is located in Portland, and can be reached at 503-952-6001. For online access to guidelines, visit www.blm.gov/or/programs/minerals/rockhounding.php. Remember, rocks, stones, and gems are best enjoyed outside the confines of a police car!
Know any places we missed? Let us know at www.corvallisadvocate.com!
By Lisa Yagoda