Oregon is a great place to hunt for and collect rocks.
If you are visiting the Medford area and want to get out in the country to hunt for rocks (but aren’t familiar with the area), this article will help you understand what you can look for that isn’t too far from the city.
Rockhounding Near Medford (For Beginners)
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.
Rocks and minerals in the region include:
- Sandstone and Conglomerate
- Andesite, Olivine, and Augite
- Porphyry copper
- Schist and Soapstone
- Josephinite, Agate, and Jasper
- Pink Rhodonite
- Pyrite (Fool’s Gold)
The following five areas lie within an hour and a half drive from Medford, Oregon, with significant amounts of exciting minerals, rocks, and crystals for beginners through expert rockhounds:
- Upper and Lower Table Rock
- Elliot Creek Ridge
- Illinois River Swinging Bridge
- Althouse Creek
- South Umpqua River Bridge — Days Creek
Upper and Lower Table Rock
The dwarf wooly meadowfoam wildflower grows upon the summits of both the Upper and Lower Table Rocks.
These mesas also provide abundant springtime pools that give the fairy shrimp one of the few places in the world that it can survive.
Consequently, due to the threatened status of the wooly meadowfoam and the fairy shrimp, the Nature Conservancy and the Bureau of Land Management do not permit the harvesting of rocks, crystals, or fossils from the summit of either mesa.
Instead, you may photograph your finds as long as you do not do so near the vernal pools, nor anywhere you see any wooly meadowfoam flowers.
So why visit these two sites if you cannot take samples?
Along with its status as one of the most environmentally sensitive geological sites in the Medford, Oregon vicinity, Upper and Lower Table Rock also feature some of the oldest rock in the area. Subsidence and vulcanism resulted in an abundance of igneous and metamorphic rocks.
Due to upthrust, the oldest rock formations appear at or near the surface.
As a result, you will encounter sandstone, conglomerate, and ancient river deposition from the Payne Cliffs, at the bases of both mesas, where you may engage in a hobby collection of rock specimens using hand tools only.
Geologists believe that the sedimentary rock and river deposition formed between the end of the Early Eocene period and the Late Eocene.
Ancient lava flow covered and protected the sedimentary rock at the bases of Upper and Lower Table Rock.
It consists of black andesite, olivine, and augite.
In addition, it includes as much as 25 percent plagioclase.
Andesite often contains porphyry copper deposits, along with apatite, garnet, ilmenite, biotite, magnetite, and zircon.
Rich in phosphorus, apatite of lesser quality serves as fertilizer, while higher-quality crystals in brilliant shades of green, yellow, blue, pink, and purple make beautiful cabochons when fractured correctly. Sometimes apatite crystals may appear brown or clear-hued as well.
Ordinarily, green olivine does not appear as abundantly as it does around Upper and Lower Table Rock because it weathers away rapidly.
But, interestingly, the August birthstone peridot is a variety of olivine.
Additionally, blast furnaces use a magnesium-enriched version of olivine to remove impurities while making steel.
Magnetite, also known as lodestone, usually appears black but can look gray with a brown tint when seen in sunlight.
Magnetite’s high iron concentration — up to 72 percent — makes it the most magnetic naturally occurring mineral on the planet.
Like apatite, zircon appears in various colors, including blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow.
Heating will either make it more transparent or enhance the brightness of its colors.
Even expert rockhounds sometimes fail to distinguish zircon, a natural gemstone composed of zirconium silicate, from cubic zirconia, comprised of zirconium oxide and used to grow simulated diamonds.
Zircon rarely occurs and therefore commands a higher price than cubic zirconium.
Elliot Creek Ridge
Soapstone and substantial nodes of garnet-rich schist lie just west of the Squaw Lakes Campgrounds, a little over an hour south of Medford.
Cross the Applegate Dam and continue driving eight miles to the Squaw Lakes trailhead.
High in talc, stone carvers value soapstone’s softer nature.
Although gold nuggets as large as one pound appeared nearby in 2006, expect to find only occasional flakes if you decide to pan.
Illinois River Swinging Bridge
Located 1 hour and 30 minutes from Medford, you will find josephinite, agate, and jasper in a gravel deposit below the Illinois River Swinging Bridge.
If your luck holds, you might even find gold or platinum if you decide to pan below it in Josephine Creek.
Oregon Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 lists josephinite as one of two of the state’s official minerals.
The terrestrial nickel and iron alloys that form josephinite occur only rarely anywhere else on the planet.
Due to its high iron content, bring a magnet with your tools to confirm any josephinite finds.
Weathered josephinite nuggets make beautiful pendants when polished.
Located about an hour and 35 minutes southwest of Medford, Althouse Creek rock finds include trace amounts of gold and jasper in the creek itself, along with far more abundant amounts of pink rhodonite.
Also known as manganese magnesium carbonate, rhodonite obtains its distinctive pink, rose-red, and brownish-red ribbons from its manganese content.
Formed when magma came in contact with sedimentary rock with high manganese content, crystal lovers prize rhodonite for its beauty when made into jewelry.
The largest gold nugget ever discovered in Oregon weighed 17 pounds and probably found its resting place 12 feet above the average level of Althouse Creek due to flooding.
If you decide to pan here, expect only occasional flecks of gold, not nuggets, and use accurate maps and GPS coordinates to ensure that you have not infringed on someone’s private claim.
South Umpqua River Bridge — Days Creek
Located about one hour and 15 minutes north of Medford, the South Umpqua River Bridge lies near the unincorporated village of Days Creek, population 264 as of 2020.
The gravel bar on the northeast riverbank contains significant amounts of quartz, agate, jasper, pyrite, and schist.
Interestingly, the pyrite found here corresponds closely to pyrite found in South America, used as eyes for ancient clay figurines.
After an assay, archeologists determined that the pyrite originated here in Oregon.
The trailhead leading down to the gravel bar from the bridge lies at GPS coordinates N 42°58.391′ W 123°10.253′ | 42.973183, -123.170883.
Hazards of Rockhounding Near Medford, Oregon
The trails leading to the bases and summits of Upper and Lower Table Rock harbor ticks and rattlesnakes, so bring a snakebite kit and thick leather gloves and wear tight-fitting, full-length, heavy denim pants tucked into hiking boots.
Remain vigilant in other areas as well, since the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and one of its two subspecies, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (C. v. oreganus), may be found in the area.
All four river and creek locations require significant agility, especially after rains.
In particular, the South Umpqua location cautions against children or the elderly attempting the climbs alone or without assistance.
Bring plenty of drinking water along and boil any groundwater you intend to drink, even if you also use water purification tablets or Life Straws.
(Alleged) Spiritual Properties of the Rocks and Minerals Found Near Medford, Oregon
NOTE: the following information is collected for informational purposes for those interested in the metaphysical properties of stones.
This information is not yet backed by scientific studies.
We highly recommend that anyone suffering from needing attention for their physical or mental health consult with a licensed practitioner.
Though scientists doubt these properties, crystals practitioners believe that andesite increases focus, aids intuition and the recognition of peril.
Feng Shui practitioners use it to ground and center themselves, especially while traveling.
According to Hinduism and Tantric Buddhism practitioners, olivine reduces negative emotions such as jealousy, spite, anxiety, and the fear of illness.
You might refer to augite as the serenity stone, since crystal healers believe it increases the ability to accept change.
Healers also believe that augite treats mineral deficiency, tightens skin, and increases strength.
Notably, apatite is thought to help the body absorb calcium, according to crystal healing practitioners, as well as apatite reduce arthritis pain in the joints and assist with bone growth and cell repair.
In contrast, practitioners think garnet boosts the immune system and balances emotions by removing inhibitions.
You might call ilmenite the opportunity knocks stone.
Ilmenite, composed of black iron and titanium dioxide, is said to help you envision your path forward through life and enable you to make the most of your potential.
On the other hand, if you have mobility issues or speech impediments due to a stroke, crystal healing practitioners believe biotite will help you recover faster.
Sometimes mistaken for gold by beginner rock hounds, biotite breaks so quickly that touching it with a needle or a hatpin causes it to shatter.
In Hindu and Tantric Buddhist beliefs, zircon lowers fevers, soothes asthma attacks, and relieves stomach pain and menstrual cramps.
In addition, practitioners believe that zircon attracts success and wealth and increases the ability to make sound decisions.
Soapstone is said to enhance creativity, calm the mind, and reduce allergic and inflammatory reactions.
Sculptors of figurines and stone toys appreciate its low hardness and smooth texture.
Practitioners recommend that you group some soapstone objects near the head of your bed when you need to balance your urge to strive with your body’s requirement for adequate rest.
Annually, 78 percent of all gold becomes jewelry, and 12 percent gets used to make electronics, medical equipment, and dental appliances.
Yet, surprisingly, only 10 percent of all gold mined each year goes toward monetary transactions.
Due to its malleable nature, a single ounce of gold 5 microns thick results in 50 miles of gold wire.
Spiritual healing practitioners believe gold enhances spiritual development, increases learning capacity, and reduces trauma.
Gold is also said to fight depression and open our third eye.
Silver is thought to return electromagnetic waves to their source, protecting the mind and body, according to crystal healers.
In addition, topical silver is used to treat wounds and burns and reduce arthritis pain.
However, it is a bad idea to take colloidal silver internally since it impairs the body’s ability to use thyroxine effectively, perpetuating low thyroid function.
According to mineral and crystal healers, platinum’s resistance to corrosion and chemicals makes it a protective element.
As a result, platinum is thought to attune the human world to the cosmos and permits intergalactic travel.
Native to Oregon, platinum’s practical uses in the physical world include catalytic converters and petroleum refining.
Mineral and crystal healers believe that josephinite relieves stress and allows growth in personal relationships when in peridot form.
In addition, because of its stress relief, peridot is used to try and lower blood pressure and allow ulcers a chance to heal.
Agate is recommended by healers to improve concentration and enhance executive functions related to decision-making.
A practitioner might recommend that middle and upper managers keep agate slices on their desks or wear them as rings or bracelets.
Some forms of jasper are thought to assist the ability to organize thoughts and reduce chaos in the physical world.
Pink rhodonite is used by believers to strengthen compassion and help heal emotional wounds.
They also use Rhodonite to try and reduce psychic damage caused by abuse and codependency.
Clear quartz, on the other hand, is thought to bolster the immune system.
Finally, pyrite, known as Fool’s Gold, is said to provides spiritual effects.
Pyrite is prescribed to stimulate our ability to recall information, making it another mineral that could sit on every executive desk.
In addition, pyrite is thought to shield against negativity and allow the wearer to see past the fronts people create to hide their insecurities.
Accordingly, this mineral could be used to assist human resource agents during the interview process.
When you go rockhounding near Medford, Oregon, do your research.
Know where you are rock hunting.
In some environmentally sensitive areas, you are limited to taking only photos and leaving no trace, even though the most exciting rock, crystal, and fossil specimens appear.
In addition, no excavating, altering, or removing any items or fossils from archaeological sites in the state can take place without obtaining a permit issued under ORS 390.235.
While it may feel disappointing, leaving your finds in situ ensures that future rock hunters continue to enjoy these geological wonders.
Despite some areas having such onerous restrictions, you will still find numerous privately-owned sites that do permit you to carry your rock, crystal, and fossilized finds away with you.
Bring a tripod for your phone or camera for stability, and use your timer rather than a selfie stick to allow yourself to appear in your photos safely.
Additionally, bring a ruler or tape measure so that you will be able to show the accurate size of your photo-only finds.
Finally, take photos while lying on the ground, squatting, and kneeling to capture your discoveries at the perfect angles, rather than only taking pictures while standing and pointing skyward or at the foot of the rock formations cradling your finds.
If you need help figuring out where to go next to hunt for collects to collect, check out our rockhounding near me page for our latest articles.