Oregon’s diverse landscape of creeks, beaches, lava flows, and rocky mountain sides makes rockhounding Oregon a memorable experience.
You’ll find opportunities to hunt for unique rocks on public lands (for free) and private lands (with permission and sometimes a fee).
Across the state, you’ll have opportunities to find marine fossils, thunder eggs, agate, jasper, petrified wood, obsidian, and much more.
Here is a collection of some of our favorite sites in Oregon for rock hounding.
Rockhounding Oregon (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.
Warning: Digging or Collecting Human Remains, Native Artifacts, and/or Fossils in Oregon
If you are new to mineral/rock/fossil hunting, you must understand that not every find is legal to take home, or even to dig up and examine.
There are state and federal laws in Oregon prohibiting you from digging up, collecting, or destroying archaeological or historical materials, including but not limited to arrowheads, potsherds, rock art, and human remains.
While the specific law (state versus federal) might change depending where you are hunting, in general it is best to leave anything that looks like human remains or Native American items alone.
In fact, if you do find anything that looks human, it is best to make a call to the local Sheriff’s department.
Best practices are to thoroughly investigate where you are planning on prospecting before you go, including all of the local laws and rules about the area.
Where to Go Rockhounding in Oregon
Since there are too many locations in Oregon for us to describe, we’ve compiled a list of our favorites, where they are, and what you might find there.
Flook Lake, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (Southern/Eastern Oregon)
Dusty, dry, and remote, Flook Lake is one of the best locations for rock collecting in Oregon.
Though it would be too far to casually visit for most of the city dwellers in the state as it is about 400 miles from Portland, those who decide to make the trip will be glad they made the effort.
In addition to its delights for rock collectors, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge also provides opportunities for fishing, wildlife viewing, photography, camping, and hiking.
Flook Lake has been dry for a long time, and is now covered with sagebrush and wild flowers if you time the seasons right.
You can walk the lakebed for hours, and find agate, black obsidian, and jasper in abundance. If you are lucky, you might even spot a fire opal.
The collection limit is seven pounds, you can’t use much in the way of tools, and you can only surface hunt.
Definitely bring extra water during the warm months, and if you are out there in the rain, we highly recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle as it can get very muddy.
Cape Blanco State Park (Southern Oregon Coast)
Cape Blanco is a stunning place to spend a few hours looking for treasures. Not far off of 101, you park your car basically on top of a cliff with wide open views of the Oregon coast to the north and south.
Step carefully down a path to the beach, where you will be able to find agate, jasper, fossils, petrified wood, and more.
Walking up and down the beach, you’ll be able to spot exposed rock beds and small creeks crossing the beach. However, the Oregon coast is constantly changing with the seasons and the storms.
Areas in one year that are great for collecting agates might be covered in sand the next. This is why we love Cape Blanco…even if there is little to collect, you can still enjoy the extraordinary views.
Collection limits are a one-gallon container per person per day, up to three gallons per calendar year.
If you are already this far south, you could also plan a stop to rockhound Bullards Beach, as the gravelbar there can yield some really great agates, petrified wood, and sea glass.
Wheeler High School Fossil Beds (Central Oregon)
Located in the town of Fossil (funny enough), what I like about these Fossil Beds is how easy it is to get to them (unlike some sites which are very remote and difficult to find). A few hours drive from Portland to the east, and you’ll be digging up fossils not far from your car!
This particular collecting area (located behind the local high school) was covered millions of years ago with a shallow lake. Now it is very dry, but you can find plant fossils of the ancestors of maples, elms, poplars, hickories, oaks, rose, alder, and sycamores, along with aquatic vertebrates like salamander and small fish.
At first, it can be very hard to “find” anything, because you might not know what to look for. Take your time, and don’t worry too much about hammering away with your tools. If you are busting up a lot of rock, you might just be obliterating the very fossils you are trying to find.
This is a great (and easy) prospecting location when you have children, or don’t feel like driving remote and twisty forest roads. Bring some small tools (like a screwdriver or chisel) and buckets to use. Only small amounts of fossils can be taken from the site, so pick through for your favorites.
Please note: there is a small fee to access the site, paid to an honor system donation box.
We recommend that you make also check out the John Day Fossil Beds (though you can’t dig there) and the Painted Hills if you are in the area.
Glass Butte (Central Oregon)
This is one of the more well known but still off the beaten path central Oregon rockhounding sites. I love it because there is such a huge variety of rocks to find, but since it is out in the middle of nowhere, I don’t have to climb over people.
Glass Butte is a public rockhounding location managed by the Bureau of Land Management. You can find many types of obsidian here (hence the name Glass Butte), such as black, pumpkin, mahogany, and double flow.
A note for families: obsidian is quite sharp (much like glass). There are tons of campsites out on Glass Butte (which is great), but many knappers and other collectors often use these sites to make arrowheads or otherwise shape their obsidian pieces, which means that there are shards of obsidian everywhere.
Avoid sandals (even hiking sandals) or any other shoe where small rocks or shards can sneak into. I trust adults to be able to keep on eye on their feet, but if your kids are anything like mine, no attention at all will be paid to what is on the ground.
Pay close attention to the BLM rules about hounding their public sites. In general, individuals can collect a “reasonable” amount in a given day.
While there is no specific definition of what “reasonable” is, just make sure that your collection fits into the trunk of your car or the bed of your truck, weighs less than 250 pounds, and is for non-commercial use.
If you want to collect more than what would be considered a “reasonable” amount, or use explosives or heavy equipment, you’ll need a permit. If you aren’t sure whether you need a permit, (or if the land you want to explore is governed by BLM rules, contact BLM.
Due to the roads, fancy or lowered vehicles are not recommended.
Hampton Butte (Central Oregon)
Hampton Butte makes this list because it is well known as a location to find various unusual colors of petrified wood (green, red, yellow and more).
Petrified wood is formed when trees fall into water and are buried by mud and volcanic ash for millions of years.
While Hampton Butte is fairly well picked over on the surface, there is still petrified wood to be found at the site if you are willing to take your tools and dig a bit. You’ll also find agate, jasper, and limb casts.
As long as you stick to BLM land, the same limits noted above for Glass Butte will apply.
Not sure what petrified wood looks like (or what it is worth? Funny enough, you can buy it on Amazon. Here’s a few listings that show photos:
Quartzville Creek (near Sweet Home, Oregon)
Quartzville Creek is an easy to access and beautiful area for rockhounding in Oregon, as you can hunt for quartz, pyrite, agates, tourmaline, gold nuggets, jasper, and petrified wood.
There is a nine mile stretch in the Quartzville Creek Recreation Corridor not far from Sweet Home, Oregon. Collectors in this area will also enjoy creek, reservoir, and old growth forest views, as well as huckleberry picking, hiking, and camping.
This particular area of area is generally very green with lots of trees (complete and polar opposite of some of the sites in central, eastern, and southern Oregon. This is a much more enjoyable area to hang out and picnic in addition to hunting for specimens.
As long as you hound in BLM land, the same limits noted above for Glass Butte will apply. Just note that there are some private mining claims in this area, so be extra careful as you go to avoid trespassing.
Whistler Springs (near Prineville, Oregon)
Nestled in the Ochoco National Forest, you can find thunder eggs near the Whistler Springs Campground. The thunder egg, the state rock of Oregon, is a popular rock with new rock enthusiasts. They come in all sizes, and are particularly gratifying to open and examine, which makes sites like Whistler Springs so popular.
This is a well known site, and easy to hunt on once you arrive. The most challenging part of the expedition is getting there. While this is a fairly well known site (and lots of maps exist directing visitors to this spot), it is still rural and remote, so make sure to grab a map in Prineville as you are driving through if you don’t have one.
Another site popular with thunder egg enthusiasts not far from Whistler Springs is Richardson Rock Ranch. You can visit the Ranch these days to view and purchase thunder eggs, but the digging grounds previously open to the public are now permanently closed.
Short Beach (near Tillamook, Oregon)
Short Beach is strangely named, since it isn’t actually all that short. Not far from Tillamook, this is a 1000+ meter stretch of beach where the poorly named Short Creek (miles long) empties into the Pacific Ocean.
The off-the-beaten path beach is a great place to find agates, quartz, calcite, zeolite, petrified wood, and jasper, as well as to enjoy the natural beauty the Oregon coast has to offer. This is also a likely place to find marine fossils.
Collection limits are a one-gallon container per person per day, up to three gallons per calendar year.
Matson Park (near Grants Pass, Oregon)
This small park/boat launch not far from Grants Pass is a popular access point for Rogue River anglers, as well as for swimming and day-picnics. If you have 4-wheel drive, you can park essentially right next to the water.
You’ll have access to the wide open river-side beach areas and the water, where you can hunt for agates and jasper along the slow moving river until you are sun burned to a crisp.
Oregon Creeks and Rivers (state-wide)
In general, you can hunt for unique and beautiful rocks in just about any creek or river in Oregon.
Because of the volcanic activity and changes to the landscape over millions of years, it is not uncommon to find agates, jasper, and quartz (or even gold) is waterways across the state.
If you are looking for a place to hunt for rocks, sometimes in Oregon the best thing to do is to pull over when you spot a turnout with access to a rock beach or exposed rocky bar.
Many of the main rivers in the state (Willamette, Clackamas, Molalla) boast multiple popular rick hounding sites.
In many cases, you might have more luck with trying a site that isn’t listed for everyone to see, and is less picked over.
You might also like: Is It Illegal To Take Rocks From a River in Oregon?
Other Beach Spots for Gravelhounding Rockhounding
There’s tons of great beaches in Oregon that have gravel beds to hunt for cool stones and petrified wood:
Tseradian State Park
Whiskey Run Beach
Bandon Jetty Beach
You might also like:
- Is It Illegal To Take Sand From a Beach in Oregon?
- Rockhounding Options Near Eugene, Oregon
- Poop Creek, Oregon (Yes, It’s Real)
- Rockhounding Mollala River, Oregon
- Is It Illegal To Pick Trilliums in Oregon?
Be Responsible, Be Prepared For Anything
Hunting for rocks in Oregon is no different than setting out on any other wilderness activity. Every year, visitors to the Oregon wilderness areas get lost or stuck in the woods, and survive because they did a few simple things:
- Brought extra food and water, as well as any necessary medications (such as insulin)
- Wore or packed warm clothing and appropriate shoes
- Kept some sort of blanket or sleeping bag to keep warm in the vehicle
- Brought their cell phone and car charger
- Filled up the tank before setting out
- Told someone where they were going and when they planned to return
The above is especially true if you are planning on heading far away from any city center or off the main roads.
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:
Disclosure: These are links to Amazon, As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.