Salem, Oregon doesn’t seem to be near much of anything aside from the Woodburn Outlet mall. But if you are willing to explore a little, you’ll definitely find some places to hunt for rocks that you’ll return to again and again.
Where To Go Rockhounding Salem Oregon
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.
The first place we would go as native Oregonians to hunt for pretty rocks or cool specimens is down on the banks and gravel bars of the Willamette River.
The Willamette River as it flows through the Salem area is mighty; it is pretty broad, deep, and swift in parts.
But if you look, you can find exposed gravel bars, especially as the water level lowers throughout the summer.
As the gravel bars become more exposed, this is the time for rockhounds to get to work.
You can surface hunt, or you can bring a shovel and dig down a bit. Often when things on the surface or boring, you can find petrified wood or even fist sized agates hiding in the gravel.
If you walk the water line, it is pretty easy to spot coin sized agates, jasper (red, and green), and petrified wood in the water, as the water lets the light in through the silty river muck.
It can be harder to see the characteristics of the rocks on the river’s edge that are not under water because they are often covered with a fine layer of the dried silt.
If you can, plan a trip to hunt gravel after a good rain storm, as this will often clean up a lot of those rocks and made them easier to hunt through.
Or you can bring sandals or a pair of tall rubber boots, and hunt for rocks deeper in the water where the casual picker isn’t willing to reach.
The great thing about hounding the river is that you can go upriver or down, and you’ll find exposed gravel bars, islands, or even just shallow spots, all of which make great places to hunt for rocks and other pretty specimens to take home for your collection.
Holleywood Ranch is a site well known to local rockhounds in the valley, but not to many others.
This is a petrified wood dig site in Sweet Home, Oregon located about one hour from the city center of Salem, Oregon.
The reason that Holleywood Ranch is on our list is that you can actually get a good look at really large pieces of petrified wood, even up to as large as three feet across.
As a rockhound, it isn’t unusual to find small pieces of petrified wood, but it is really unusual to come across large pieces like this in the valley, especially in this size.
The folks at the ranch have lapidary equipment set up, so you can even purchase finished slabs of petrified wood.
Historically (though this may change), the owners on this site have allowed visitors to dig on the property for petrified wood, paying by the pound for any material that they wish to take home.
This is not a big operation, so we definitely recommend that you reach out to them in advance to confirm the hours and what they are offering.
In the same direction as Sweet Home and Holleywood Ranch, we recommend Quartzville Creek as another option for rockhounding.
South and east of Salem, the Quartzville Creek is actually part of what we call the “Mining Corridor.” This small river (and several others in this area) were known for quartz and gold in the 1800s.
While much of the land on Quartzville Creek is private and impossible to access, you can drive up above the Green Peter Reservoir on Quartzville Road and find access points on the river where you can still pan for gold.
As with most rivers and creeks in the valley, you can also find agates, jasper, various cool looking rocks, and petrified wood.
A quick note: pay close attention as you are hiking up and down the creek hunting for cool rocks and specimens, so that you don’t accidentally stumble onto private land or an active mining claim.
And it should go without saying that you should not enter into anything that looks like an old mining tunnel, as these areas are unstable and could result in death.
Local rockhounds also frequent the public access areas of the Clackamas, Calapooia River, and the North as well as South Santiam River areas for agates, jasper, and petrified wood.
If You Are Willing To Drive More Than An Hour From Salem
As you can see, the Willamette Valley offers a few places not too far from Salem to hunt for agates, jasper, and petrified wood.
But most of these opportunities are the river/creek variety.
If you are willing to drive a bit further from Salem, you might check out these spots:
At Glass Butte, you can find all the obsidian you’d ever want or need, and in various colors you never eve knew it came in.
At Hampton Butte, you can dig down and around for petrified wood. It comes in many different colors on this butte, but most folks are looking for the green variety at this location.
Bob’s Creek: Bob Creek Wayside is located on the Oregon coast, north of Florence and south of Waldport.
It is often hounded along with Strawberry Hill Wayside, which is only a few minutes away.
Local rockhounds love these two locations because of the variety of agates that can be found, as well as the great opportunities for exploring the unique rock formations and tide pools that become exposed when the tide goes out.
For more ideas, check out our Rockhounding Oregon article.
In the Willamette Valley, folks looking for rockhounding near Salem can always find cool rocks if they are anywhere near the water (lakes, creeks, rivers, reservoirs).
And if you are willing to drive just a little bit further, even more adventure awaits.
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.