Monday, 25 November 2013 09:12

Lake Creek Oregon Agate Hunt

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Back in the early nineties, I spotted an ad in my local, Jackson County, Oregon, Nickel classified ads newspaper. (Yes, this was well before Craigslist) A guy was selling agate. I visited his house, and bought some pieces, including this rather large nodule. He said that he had found the agate near Lake Creek, Oregon, after having noticed that a lot of the agate at the Crater Rock Museum, in Central Point, Oregon, was labeled as being from the Lake Creek area. 

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Our friendly neighborhood Crater Rock Museum was founded in 1954, and houses a shop, with a saw big enough to cut my large nodule. They also have a world class mineral collection, and the museum is well worth the visit, if you are in the southern Oregon area: 2002 Scenic Avenue, Central Point, OR. Generally open Tuesdays through Saturdays. Phone number 541 664-6081 

Lake Creek nodule cut

I was stunned to see that my "garage sale" nodule cut with a fantastic, white plume interior! From then on, Lake Creek was on my rockhound radar! I have made trips out there for almost 20 years now, and the area still holds a few surprises each time I go.

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On a gorgeous golden Sunday, in late November 2013, I decide to go agate hunting, to see what might be found. The Lake Creek area can be accessed from Ashland, Oregon, via the Dead Indian Memorial Road, which takes off from Hwy 66 at the south end of Ashland. The photo shows the DIM road ascending below the summit of Grizzly Peak, a prominent landmark on the horizon, east of Ashland.

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 On the way up, I notice that somebody had a little extra holiday spirit this year!

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 The route up provides some excellent vistas of the quaint little town of Ashland, with Pompador Bluff seen on the right, in the middle distance. 

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As you round Pompador Bluff, at just the right angle, you can see "the old man in the mountain", open-mouthed, and seemingly asking a question forever to the empty sky. 

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Pompador Bluff, and other cliffs in the area are composed of the sandstones and conglomerates of the Payne Cliffs formation, which was deposited during the Eocene time, some 40 million years ago, when rivers flowed slowly across the land, periodically flooding, and  moving large amounts of materials.

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From Dead Indian Memorial Road, I take the Shale City Road. As the sign indicates, there is a very nice trail to the summit of Grizzly Peak, up this road at the 4.7 mile mark. The Lake Creek Road is just a short distance beyond that. 

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 The Lake Creek Road is signed (37-2E-7.2) but the photo shows a far more prominent sign at the juncture. The Cascade Cattle Ranch has definitely made recent efforts in this area to out-sign the BLM, and you will note numerous "No Trespassing" signs along some stretches of the Lake Creek road. Please obey all signs in the area, so rockhounds will remain welcome. It only takes a few people thinking that the signs are for somebody else and not them, to get the area closed.  

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A couple of mourning doves take some sun on the Lake Creek Road. Even the days stay cold now, and these birds are reluctant to move from their sunny patch. 

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Just around a corner in the road, deer are browsing. This photo was taken earlier in the season, as evidenced by the green grass, but I see several deer today, and they are abundant in the area. 

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 At about 5 miles down the Lake Creek Road, a clearing opens up, and you get a marvelous view of Mount McLoughlin, a picture perfect cinder cone. Here, BLM spur road 37-2E-17 leads into one of the agate bearing areas. Note: this road is currently under question as to whether or not it's actually open to collecting. On my most recent (March 2015) trip out here, the local ranch had this road signed "No Tresspassing" but it still retains a BLM number designation. I have yet to contact the BLM to determine the status.  

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The road, and woods in this area are underlain in some parts by a vessicular basalt, and some of the vugs are filled with agate nodules of various sizes. Most are small, as shown in the photo, with pea sized agates, up to the largest one, which is about one inch. But occasionally, bigger nodules are found. 

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The spur road runs for about a quarter mile, and leads down to an irrigation canal. One possible approach to this rather large area, where agate is thinly scattered, is to dig adjacent to the road, in any area where you see  a concentration of agates. You could get lucky. The area in the photo occurs just before the spur road makes a final descent down to the irrigation canal.

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Over the years, I've done some scratching of the surface, down to about 10 inches in this area.

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I spot a pretty good sized one right in the road. Only the tip top was poking out. You have to use a pick and pull at anything you see in this area. You never know when a small piece will turn out to be larger than it first appeared. 

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Back at my shop, I cut the large agate nodule, revealing a nice interior of milky gray/blue depth, with some interesting detail at the edges where the agate contacted the surrounding basalt during formation. 

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It's not the most aesthetic piece that I have ever found here, but it's not bad, and will certainly make a good display piece once polished. 

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Here is a nice nodule that I lucked out and dug up, just off the side of the road in this area. To me it's somewhat reminiscent of the more famous Brazilian agate nodules. I love the hollow crystal lined chambers hidden within some of the nodules found here. 

Lake Creek Limb

Here's a little secret that very few if any rockhounds know: There are some beautiful agatized limb casts in this exact little area. I haven't found them anywhere else, in these agate bearing hills. These are obviously extremely rare, and I may not even find one per year. But occasionally they do show up. 

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After the spur road has dropped down, but just before it gets to the irrigation canal, there is a large downed tree. I always check the root wads of these fallen trees, hoping for agates. You can continue to check each year, as rains wash out the root wad, revealing more material. 

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At the juncture with the irrigation canal, the spur road effectively ends, as it is bisected by a creek coming in from the right, which continues on downhill, through the metal chute. The irrigation canal continues straight ahead, through the black culvert, and a maintenance road follows along it's side.

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Walking the maintenance road, along the irrigation canal, I spot a pretty red moss agate, which grades to a yellowish area, and finally into a milky gray blue area with green moss - cool! 

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A few feet further on is this decent sized, cuttable four inch nodule.

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And just a little down from that, is this sweet little druzy piece of rock crystal from a geode cavity of old. 

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As you climb up a down on the hillsides here, you periodically get some very nice views of Mt. McLoughlin peeking above nearer ridgelines. This is a December view, with the mountain fully cloaked in wintery robes. 

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Walking around in the woods, I find this standard, but decent five inch agate and crystal geode which would clean up, and could be windowed to make a presentable piece. My finds today aren't top notch, but these are the kinds of things which keep you going on the hunt. 

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A little further on, I make my find of the day in these wooded hillsides - a real nice large, fist sized agate chunk that is all wormy on one side with chalcedony coated tubes. This will most certainly cut with a great display, and could just be cleaned and left as is, for a fantastic specimen.

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What follows is a short gallery of my best finds, from the past two decades of collecting in this area. Here a large and gorgeous nodule is festooned with green moss, threading throughout moonlight gray/blue agate. Nodules of this size are very uncommon, and it is quite lucky to find one.  

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Fantastic almost ten inch nodule with very artistic interplay of agate and moss. 

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Sweet eliptical nodule with large clay tubes running through translucent gray agate. 

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 A perfect balance of moss and agate, with sparkling druzy pocket for accent. 

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 Spectacular multi-colored jasper discovered after the flood of 97 made the irrigation canal jump it's banks, and carve out a section of hillside. 

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Weird and beautiful gnarly nodule. 

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Botryoidal druzy cavity. 

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This one rivals Brazilian agate in my mind. 

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An exceptionally large geode nodule that I dug out from underground, up on a wooded ridge. 

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Wonderful gray mossy nodule with fantastic stalactitic chamber. 

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Crazy jasper cored moss agate with botryoidal agate covering. 

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There's not enough time in a day. For every agate that I find, I believe that there are dozens still hiding under the soil. Exploration of this area takes a lot of patience and time due to steep, thickly wooded terrain. You will notice that none of the agates in my gallery looked anything like the original white plume nodule that got me going on rockhounding this area. There must be another area, but I may need another lifetime to find it! Or maybe I'll get lucky and find it the next time I vist the Lake Creek agate beds. Happy rockhounding! 

 

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