People travel from all over the world to Central Oregon in search of the perfect rock. Tens of thousands of rockhounds of all ages come to the Prineville area from as far away as Japan and New Zealand to seek their very own hidden treasure to bring home as an artifact of this diverse landscape. Most are looking for agates, jasper or obsidian, or—if they are lucky—they might find a thunder egg (Oregon’s state rock) filled with crystals.
The formation of these rocks began with volcanic eruptions that occurred 40 – 50 million years ago. After the volcanic activity subsided, silica-rich ground water filled the cracks in the rocks with agate, quarts and jasper. More recent volcanic activity (4.9 million years ago) created deposits of obsidian.
Before you set out on your own rockhounding adventure, stop into the Bend Visitor Center and purchase a Rockhounding Map, created through a partnership of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Prineville-Crock County Chamber of Commerce. It comes complete with Global Positioning Coordinates, as well as a briefing the geographical history of the area.
The rockhounding “code of ethics” encourages treasure hunters to only take reasonable amounts of rock for personal collecting. These public lands are not available for the commercial operator, and mechanized digging is forbidden. While shovels are allowed, surface collecting in the spring time is said to be quite lucrative.
While there are many public lands open to rockhounding, for those looking for a more personal experience, visit Richardson’s Rock Ranch in Madras which offers guests 4,000 acres to scavenge. Other great resources include the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce and Elkins Gem Stones in Prineville. For true rockhounding fanatics, plan your next vacation around the three Rock Hound Powwows in late June and early July in Prineville, Madras and Culver. The Prineville event, which usually occurs the last weekend in June at the Crook County Fairground, includes dozens of rock-related vendors selling their wares.Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce