Like most people, I used to think of rocks as being just that, rocks.
That belief swiftly changed during a road trip through Oregon and Nevada this summer. Lo and behold, by the time I was back home, a baby rockhound was born.
I had just spent three days combing the high deserts of South Eastern Oregon and Northern Nevada for interesting rocks, joyfully enduring triple-degree heat and harsh landscapes for the opportunity to dig.
It all came about by accident. As I planned my summer road trip, I remembered how much my older brother enjoyed collecting rocks when we were kids. I was into collecting baseball cards; he was all about rocks. While we have both moved on from our childhood hobbies, I figured planning a day of rockhounding in Oregon would be well received by my travel mate.
Sure enough, the idea was enthusiastically supported by big bro, and a day for rockhounding was set aside. Unfortunately that first day hit some snags – we drove over an hour from Bend to Richardson Rock Ranch only to learn it was temporarily closed to public digging. It was a huge bummer for my brother who had to fly back to California that night to get back to work.
For me, however, it was just the beginning. I had three days to explore rockhounding sites on my way from Central Oregon to Lake Tahoe.
On my first day of serious rock hounding, I unearthed several small thunder eggs at the Whistler Springs site in the Ochoco National Forest. The next day I dug up chunks of obsidian in the outside of Riley. The next day, on my way from the gorgeous lower Crooked River to the Alvord Desert, I stopped at the Glass Butte area looking for obsidian.
From the Alvord Desert to Lake Tahoe there were several more stops made in places like Borax Lake near the Oregon/Nevada border, and Coal Canyon Road off Interstate 80 near Winnemucca, Nevada.
Some places produced more quality material than others, but each location was interesting in its own way.
Like so many others who have caught the rock hounding fever, I started planning my second trip the day that I returned home from my first adventure. I also dropped more than $100 on a rock tumbler. The first batch of rocks is tumbling as I type, and I can’t wait to see the results.
Seems as though a new hobby has taken root.
There’s some other basic rockhounding equipment that is needed to get started. As someone who likes to go camping a few times a year, I already owned a shovel and a couple of 5-gallon buckets. I added a rock pick, rock hammer, and chisel so that I could do some more serious digging and extracting if I needed to. I like being prepared. The Eastwing rock pick turned out to be a great tool.
A solid 4×4 vehicle also helps, as many rockhounding sites are in remote locations accessible only in a high-clearance auto.
For anyone interested in their own search, there’s lots of informational websites, maps, and personal blogs that will help guide the way. Good Luck!!
Rockhounding Locations I Visited:
Whistler Springs, Ochoco National Forest, Oregon
Fischer Canyon, Prineville Reservoir, Oregon
Glass Butte, Burns, Oregon
Alvord Desert, Harney County, Oregon
Coal Canyon Road, Pershing County, Nevada
Gasline Road, Fernley, Nevada