We just got back from a trip to the Irish Bend County Park on the Willamette River near Monroe, Oregon and Corvallis Oregon.
As always, this off the beaten path river spot did not disappoint.
Rockhounding Irish Bend
What Is It Like At Irish Bend?
Irish Bend is a County Park located about 10 minutes from the small town of Monroe, or about 20 minutes from Corvallis.
The park itself is a long, wide, and mostly flat stretch of gravel bar.
The river itself here is also pretty wide, calm, and shallow on the side of the gravel bar, as the main channel is on the opposite side of the river.
There are no trees out on the gravel bar, and few shrubs to provide any shade.
People go to Irish Bend to wade, swim, let their dogs run, fish (upstream and downstream from the main gravel bar), and to hunt for rocks.
What Rocks Did I Find At Irish Bend?
The gravel bar at Irish Bend is exposed during the summer months, but during much of the winter, the gravel bar is submerged by the rushing Willamette River.
There is enough force and flow going over the gravel bar to bring and deposit large trees and stumps.
But this flow also disturbs and turns over the gravel bed, exposing many unique rocks to collect.
In the past, I have collected a lot of agates, jasper, and small pieces of petrified wood.
I also pick up cool stones that I don’t know the names up, but just have cool colors (red, green, purple), or have neat markings.
In this last trip, I was able to find many agates.
Some of these agates were almost translucent, while others were dark yellow.
Others were in between.
My kids found several that were dime sized, but I found some that were quarter sized, or even silver dollar sized.
Tips For Finding Cool Rocks At Irish Bend
Irish Bend is well known to agate hunters. If you get out to Irish Bend after the water drops, you’ll have first pick of the rocks left on the surface, though sometimes its hard to see what’s there if it hasn’t rained recently, as the rocks sometimes are covered in dried silt.
When I am agate hunting, I wear sandals or boots and look for rocks a few feet into the water, where casual hunters are less likely to tread.
I look for anything light colored or white as I walk, as the agates are usually pretty obvious.
Another way more serious rock hunters look for larger agates (think fist sized or bigger) is by digging holes in the gravel bed.
I’ve seen people show up with a garden spade and dig down 2-3 feet, and then start digging a trench parallel to the river.
Occasionally they will pull out larger agates, as well as large pieces of petrified wood.
There doesn’t seem to be any specific rules preventing rockhounds from digging down into the gravel bed, but they tend to leave their holes.
These holes will certainly be filled and covered up when the water rises with the rain, but until they, they are unsightly and fill up with stagnant water (a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitoes).
When To Visit Irish Bend For Rockhounding
We have been out to Irish Bend in all seasons. One of our favorite times to go is actually during sunny winter days.
Since the water level is variable, depending on rainfall and snowmelt, we’ll keep a close eye on the flow of the water while wading (in knee high rubber boots).
But since there are fewer people out on the gravel bar, and then weather and water will have had a chance to unearth some treasures, it is a great time to get outside.
Otherwise, you can visit year round, water level permitting.
In the summer months, the gravel bar is exposed to the sun and gets quite hot.
The trees are actually on the west side of the gravel bar, and there is nothing to block the sun on the east side.
Folks who are sensitive to the sun or to heat in the summer are advised to visit after 4pm as the trees block the sun and heat later in the day.
Folks who want to sunbath and swim are advised to get to the gravel bar before 4pm, before the sun gets lost behind the trees.
It can also get pretty windy on the gravel bar in summer afternoons, so keep that in mind if you are planning on bringing tubes, kayaks, or shade devices (like easy ups).
Getting To Irish Bend
Google Maps directions to Irish Bend are spot on.
As you turn off Old River Road to go east on Irish Bend Road, just be aware that the road turns to gravel with about 2 miles to go before you reach the river.
This shouldn’t impact vehicles, as the gravel road is reasonably well maintained, but cyclists will struggle on this section if they don’t have the appropriate tires.
The parking lot at Irish Bend is not that large, but a good 20-30 cars can get in there, if people park along side the road.
In the winter, the yellow gate to the park is closed, so people park just outside the gate along the fields and walk in.
In the summer, the county puts a porta-potty at the parking lot, but there is nothing out there in the winter months.
Bring your own water, food, and be prepared to pack it all out, as there is no garbage service.
There isn’t a ton to do at Irish Bend, but it is a HUGE gravel bar with lots of room to look for rocks.
Folks make the trip to hunt for stones of particular shapes, stones for jewelry making, or for other art projects.
And since the gravel bar is so very long and large, even a full parking lot isn’t a deterrent, as there is space enough for everyone.