Flook Lake is a little known rockhounding gem of Oregon, situated in the southeastern part of the state, several hours drive away from the main city centers of Oregon.
It is actually part of the 270,000 acre Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, which was established almost 100 years ago to conserve and protect the Pronghorn Antelope.
Rockhounding Flook Lake/Hart Mountain (A Visitor’s Guide)
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.
About the Flook Lake Area
Though water does accumulate there in the wet seasons, Flook Lake isn’t actually much of a lake anymore.
Most of the year it is a completely dry alkali flat, and resembles more of a high prairie than a lake.
Depending on the time of year, it might be covered with green bunches of grass, wildflowers, and sage brush.
You might also see it looking brown as brown can be. It can be a rough place, hot, windy, and stormy.
For folks looking to hunt rocks, Flook Lake is about 6-7 miles away from the Hart Mountain Refuge Headquarters, on the way toward Frenchglen and Steens Mountain.
Flook Lake is located about one mile off the main road down a dirt road that is reasonable and decently easy to drive when it is dry, but pretty much impassible when it is wet.
If it is dry, the dirt road to Flook Lake actually goes right across the middle of the lake instead of around.
While it might be tempting to take your vehicle all over the lakebed (and follow the tracks of other vehicles) it is not legal to do so, and it is pretty damaging to the environment.
Pay attention as you walk/drive, and it is pretty likely that you’ll see an antelope or two.
What Can You Expect To Find?
When rockhounding Flook Lake, you can expect to find agates of many colors, jasper, black obsidian, fire opal, and petrified wood.
When rockhounding, no tools are allowed. You can surface hunt (meaning collect what is on the surface) and you aren’t supposed to dig.
Hart Mountain Jasper (aka porcelain jasper) is particularly sought after in the area.
The limit of what you can take with you is 7 pounds per person.
You may also find native artifacts, especially if you hike up to the petroglyph areas. Unfortunately, you cannot collect native artifacts in Oregon.
Another highlight of the area we recommend that you visit is the Petroglyph Lake, where you can see more than 60 petroglyph panels along the edge of the shallow lake.
Recommended Tools/Equipment When You Visit Flook Lake To Rockhound
When planning a trip to rockhound at Flook Lake, here is what we recommend that you pack:
- Close toed shoes that are good for walking in. If you can’t drive the one mile dirt track out to the lake from the main highway, you’ll be stuck hiking in and out with all of your gear and your finds. The reason we recommend close toed shoes is that you will be sharing the land space with rattlesnakes, uneven terrain, and rocks.
- Water. Have water on you and in the car for when you return, or in case you get stuck out there for any reason. The wide open space can seem much like a desert in the warm months (90 degrees F-100 degrees F +). Water is 100% essential.
- Light, loose clothing. Do yourself a favor and wear light colored clothing that covers your legs and arms to avoid getting too much sun.
- Hat (or even an umbrella, which can do a lot to keep the sun off of you)
- Daypack. I prefer a daypack to a bucket (though I might also bring a small bucket) because I like to be able to put my materials on my back rather than in a bucket hanging from one hand if I have to walk a long distance. Certainly the 7 pound limit would prevent you from overloading your pack. But a daypack would also allow you to carry your snacks and water.
- Physical maps, as your cell phone or tablet probably won’t have service.
Where Is Flook Lake/Hart Mountain Located?
If you are traveling from Portland, Oregon, you are looking at 7-8 hour drive with minimal stops and good roads.
You can drive down I-5 and cut over to central Oregon at Salem or Eugene, you can go east on I-84 and then head south, or head down 97.
Regardless, you’ll be driving through some of the most striking terrain Oregon has to offer.
This could be a good time to drop by Crater Lake National Park en route, or stop over at one of the other many beautiful landmarks (Mt. Hood, Smith Rock, John Day Fossil Beds, The Painted Hills, etc).
Where to Stay?
While it is possible and easy to find lodging in Lakeview, Oregon or Burns, Oregon, both of these cities are still over two hours from Floor Lake.
Instead, we think the best place to stay when planning to visit Flook Lake for rockhounding is to camp at the nearby Hart Mountain High Springs Campground.
The campground has 30 free campsites.
There are vault toilets, but few other amenities.
No reservations are required. Plan for heat and mosquitoes in the summer.
And enjoy the bonus of the free hot springs.
Wrap Up Details
Flook Lake (and the Hart Mountain Refuge) is beautiful, but remote.
There isn’t much in the way of services there.
You’ll need to bring the food you want to eat and water you need to drink.
If you are planning on leaving the main roads/trails to walk/hike/ride, be backcountry prepared.
You may not have cell service, and help may be hard to come by if you need it.
There are no fees to pay or permits to obtain to visit Flook Lake.
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Oregon Rockhounding Resources
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