Oregon is basically a rockhound’s dream for finding unique and beautiful treasures. Eugene, a mid-sized Oregon town, is no exception.
While Eugene is known for track and field, craft beer, and hippies, it is also a destination for rock hunters.
Eugene is a great place to stay (hotels, motels, food, music, art) that is also within a reasonable drive of the beach (where you can hunt for agates, jasper, petrified wood), numerous creeks and rivers (full of agates, quartz, and even the occasional gold nugget).
While you could drive as far as you like in a day to hunt for rocks (like to central Oregon to hunt for obsidian and thunder eggs), in this article we’ll talk about three easy types of sites that you can access within an hour of Eugene.
The ideal reader of this article (and who this information is aimed at) is an individual or group that is visiting Eugene and is not familiar with the area, has children that can’t sit in the car for terribly long, or anyone who just doesn’t know where to go and doesn’t feel like driving all that long.
In general, most people who are visiting Oregon for the first time who want to rockhound would head to central Oregon or to the coast to do their hunting.
However, it is more than an hour to the beach from Eugene, and definitely more than an hour to Central Oregon…so this list is for folks who want to stay close in to Eugene.
Where To Go Rockhounding Near Eugene
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Local Reservoirs (Dorena Lake, Cottage Grove Lake, Fall Creek Reservoir, Lookout Reservoir)
Eugene is surrounded by rivers, creeks, lakes, and man-made reservoirs. Not sure what that is or why it matters?
Reservoirs are generally man-made lakes, and the height of the water in the reservoir (which usually looks like a lake) is controlled by humans at the dam.
The water is allowed to get higher during different times of year, and then is let out to lower the water level at certain times of year, in order to keep the flow of the water downstream constant and to prevent flooding.
When reservoirs are drained, as they are on a yearly basis to prepare for the rainy season and snowmelt, rockhounds can have a lot of fun walking down into what is basically the bed of the lake.
As the water comes and goes each year, the exposed lake bed can be a wonderful place to find unique rocks (like agates and jasper, as well as some petrified wood).
We have also found some other unexpected items nearer to the areas where people hang out when the water is up (think swimmers, water skiers) such as watches, sunglasses, shoes, wallets, and goggles.
In general, the best time to rockhound reservoirs like the ones mentioned close to Eugene is near the end of summer and into fall, before it really starts raining again.
Willamette River Parks (easy wins when rockhounding Eugene Oregon)
The river running through the middle of Eugene is called the Willamette River.
The banks of the river are often very rocky, but with smaller stones, rather than large pieces.
In the summer months, especially near the end of the summer, the water level is significantly lowers than it is in May and June, and often rock beds in the middle of the river are exposed.
Any one of these beds are great places to hunt for jasper and agates.
You can visit any of the multitude of parks in the area that are right on the river (or other public access points) to walk up and down the river looking for rocks.
You might even see trillium up here, though you shouldn’t pick it.
If you are visiting Eugene and staying downtown, you can actually access the river at Alton Baker Park.
Where the Ferry Street Bridge crosses the Willamette, there are several spots upriver from the bridge from the path that follows along where you can get down to the river shallow spots and look for rocks.
Other ideas that are close to downtown for out of town visitors are Island Park (just over the bridge into Springfield), Armitage Park (north toward Coburg), and Clearwater Park (Springfield).
I can’t remember the name, but there is a pretty large rocky gravel bar right where the Beltline Freeway Crosses the Willamette (east of the Delta interchange) where people enjoy fishing, swimming, and hanging out.
If you feel like driving a bit, you can try rockhounding Irish Bend County Park, which is great for agates and jaspers.
Willamette River Boat Ramps
There are tons of boat ramps in the Eugene/Springfield area, but they tend not to receive a ton of traffic from the general public because they don’t offer anything other than a place to put the boat in or out (such as picnic tables, bathrooms, grass, space to hang out, etc).
As a younger person, my friends and I used to come to these boat ramps as a place to quickly jump into the water to cool off in the summertime.
In general, these ramps are placed in areas where the river isn’t terribly treacherous. Anglers frequently park their cars there and then walk up/down river to get some fishing in.
What this means is that there are often informal trails going along the banks of the river where you can walk and look for good spots to get down to the water’s edge.
Oftentimes there will be exposed gravel bars as well if you are there in the months when the river is running low.
The reason I like the boat ramps is that they tend to have less people around, and there is less competition with rockhounds who like to prowl the edges of the waterway and shallows like we do.
While just about any of the boat ramps have potential, if you need some names to get started, you could try:
- Marshall Island Boat ramp
- Whiteley Landing County Park
- Jasper State Recreation Site
- Middlefork Boat launch
- Harrisburg boat ramp/Riverfront Park
In Oregon (especially the valley), just about any waterway is going to be a decent place to hunt for agates, jaspers, and other pretty looking rocks.
The same is true when rockhounding near Salem and Portland.
Small creeks and ditches off the side of the road can be good places to find pretty rocks. The main thing you need to do is keep your eyes open.
We’ve created an ultimate guide to gifts for rockhounds with helpful links directly to Amazon to make looking for and checking out potential gifts quick and review easy!
Planning a trip to rockhound? We’ve got lots of ideas for rockhounding near you.