Oregon is rich in naturally occurring gemstones, and rockhounders from all over the state are always looking for the largest gemstones and most fertile sites.
If you are anxious to get out into Oregon’s beautiful countryside to look for rocks (but aren’t too familiar with the area), this article will reveal 12 popular ideas for trips within two hours of the city that you can try out.
Rockhounding Near Lebanon
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.
1) South Fork of the Santiam River – 32.7 miles, 40 minutes
The stones that you can find here are agate, jasper, and petrified wood.
This place has good road access and is very open.
You can go east onto OR-20 towards Sisters, OR, and follow the signs straight into the right area.
It’s on the edge of Marion and Linn counties.
You can search the entire area but focus on the riverbank for good gravel deposits with hidden treasures.
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can also travel to the North Fork of the Santiam River.
There are a lot of other opportunities for fun here too!
This is right next to the Cascadia Day-Use Area, where you can visit the Short Bridge, one of Oregon’s oldest covered bridges.
It is also less than two miles away from Cascadia State Park.
2) Clackamas River – 96 miles, 2 hours
This area has well-maintained road access and is very accommodating for individuals and large parties.
From Lebanon, you can get onto Clackamas Highway OR-224 East to access the best spots.
Popular stones to find here are petrified wood, cinnabar, agate, and jasper.
Most rockhounders find the best stones on the edges of the river bed.
Clackamette Park, on the northern edge of the Clackamas River, is great for relaxing, swimming, and playing with your family also.
3) Thomas Creek – 17.09 miles, 22 minutes
This area is a popular recreation area, but there are some private property and “No Trespassing” signs.
Rock collectors will have lots of opportunities to find agate, jasper, petrified wood, and fossils.
Local Thomas Creek regulars recommend you to look out for low water levels when gravel deposits are exposed and can be searched for stones.
Located close to Salem and Albany, the area also attracts visitors to explore the self-guided Covered Bridge Tours.
There are also several designated fishing, kayaking, and swimming areas so everyone can have fun.
4) Quartzville Creek – 50 miles, 1 hr 21 minutes
This refers specifically to the Quartzville Creek Recreational Corridor from Rocky Top Bridge to Yellowbottom Recreation Site.
In this area, you will find gold, pyrite, agate, jasper, quartz, and petrified wood.
Be mindful of the recreational mining guidelines in this area, because they are a little more strict.
Also, there are some private properties in the area, so be careful not to trespass.
You get here by driving onto US-20 East (aka Main Street) for around 19 miles to Quartzville Road.
Once you see the sign, turn left onto Quartzville Road and continue roughly 13 miles.
If you want to take a break and swim with your family, there are more than five large swimming holes for your convenience and pleasure.
If you want a relaxing drive, you can also take the Quartzville Back Country Byway as an unmatched scenic treat.
Other places of interest within an hour’s drive are Sunnyside County Park and McKeercher County Park.
5) Calapooia River – 15.7 miles, 22 minutes
In these riverbeds, you will find petrified wood, agate, jasper, geodes.
Public access to the river is limited in some places, but there are still several collecting sites available to explore.
Along upper Callapooia Drive, you can also find small pullouts where you can park and walk down to the river’s bank.
Forest Road NF 2820 runs parallel to the Calapooia River, and if you keep going 18 more miles, you can visit the Willamette National Forest.
The counties included in this area are Linn, Benton, Polk, Marion, and Clackamas.
6) Ona Beach State Park – 76 miles, 1 hour 26 minutes
This is located south of Newport, OR at Highway 101 at milepost 149.
The park is a fine, forested ocean flat with easy access for rockhounding agate, jasper, petrified wood, and fossilized agate.
There is a steady flow of visitor traffic here, making it harder to snag the larger gemstones first.
There are more quality gemstones and fewer people a little further south between Yachats and Florence.
7) Molalla River – 67 miles, 1 hour 50 minutes
This is a part of the Willamette Valley area.
The most popular stones here are agate, jasper, and petrified wood, but they are hard to find.
During the summer months, the water here is low and it’s easy to see the riverbed and the rocks just below the surface.
Local rock collectors who travel here often recommend you come prepared to wade out into the middle of the river to find the best stones.
Be mindful that this area can become very crowded during the vacation season because of the beautiful scenery and plenty of swimming holes.
8) Otter Rock & Devils Punch Bowl State Park – 75 miles, 1 hour 29 minutes
This well known area for rockhounding is found on Highway 101, tucked in between mileposts 132 and 133.
Typical stones here are agate, carnelian, jasper, and petrified wood, but the best part of these locations are the Marine Fossils.
The Devil’s Punch Bowl can be very dangerous during high tide, so you must plan your trip to this site well.
As long as it is not winter, there are no storms, and the tide level is no higher than zero, you can wade in and begin looking for your treasures.
Otter Rock is easily accessible and you are free to beachcomb there with little restrictions or private property.
9) Smelt Sands State Park – 91 miles, 1 hour 47 minutes
Local rockhounders agree that this area is one of the best for someone itching to get their first piece of agate because here it is pretty much a guarantee.
This picturesque beach has lots of tide pools and small inlets where you can search for petrified wood and multicolored jaspers also.
Besides rockhounding, this place is perfect for whale-watching and photography also.
This park is protected by one of the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve, so there is no fishing allowed in this area.
10) Fogarty State Park – 84 miles, 1 hour 40 minutes
The Fogarty Creek State Park area can be found at Highway 101, milepost 125.
In addition to agate, there are also jasper, carnelian, shells, sea glass, driftwood, marine fossils, petrified wood, and several other gorgeous unidentified stones at this park.
They also said the best places to start are in the gravel beds close to the water, but access to these comes and goes depending on the season and the year.
If there aren’t any major gravel beds exposed at the open beach, you can head to Fogarty Creek next less than a mile away.
11) Seal Rock State Recreation Site – 87 miles, 1hr 30 minutes
You can get here from Highway 101 and stop at milepost 151.
By looking at the tide pools, you can discover lots of wildlife as well as unique stones and rock formations.
The easiest stones to find here are agate, jasper, carnelian, petrified wood, and marine fossils.
Rockhounding here is straightforward because the waves are fairly calm and it’s easy to spot the special stones among the sandstone and basalt.
12) Road’s End State Recreation Site- 96 miles, 1hr 47 minutes
This area is one of the only places on the coast you can find fossilized agate along with jasper, petrified wood.
If you are traveling down Lincoln Highway 101, it will be between mileposts 112 and 113 off of Logan Road.
This area is a scenic and beautiful beach where you can easily beachcomb for interesting stones among the tidepools and small rock formations, but only when it is low tide.
That being said, make sure you plan your trip time accordingly.
Oregon Rockhounding Resources
If you are interested in having a physical book in hand while exploring Oregon (when wi-fi/cell signal is not reliable), consider:
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Rockhounding Tips to keep in mind
- In general the best time to rockhound any beach on the Oregon coast is in late fall, winter, and early spring. This is because storms during these months deposit or turn up agates and other cool-looking specimens easily.
- Beachcombing on an outgoing tide is the safest practice and makes it easier to see the special stones because they have all been covered in the water recently and will glisten more.
- Have a fair idea of what you’re looking for before you begin searching because it will make finding stones a lot easier.
- Always step back and study the rock from a few different angles and look for small hints of the glow from the light hitting it.
- Don’t be afraid to do some foot sweeping to uncover some deeper stones.
Being in Lebanon, Oregon will put you right in the middle of over 12 productive rockhounding sites within a two-hour radius that is all road accessible and free to access.
Most of these areas are also great tourist stops with killer scenery, historical monuments, and several swimming holes, so you and your loved ones can make the most out of the occasion.
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