Gorgeous Oregon Materials

aurora borealis pit

In the book, "Gem Trails of Oregon" author Garrett Romaine calls this central Oregon locality the "Aurora Borealis Pit". It's a small hole in an otherwise undug field, that yields sheen obsidian with ribbon like flow structures that look amazingly like the Northern Lights. The site is out in the central Oreogn desert and sage country, about 80 miles east of Bend, on Highway 20, and has been long known to rockhounds as Glass Butte - a collection of obsidian flows that cover a large area. There are numerous pits throughout that area, and some of the more mentionable obsidian that has come from there includes rainbow, double flow, "pumpkin" ( a kind of orange brown color) and various sheens. I dug probably a couple hundred pounds of material out and only got one stone that cut like this. But I did get a reasonable percentage of obsidian that had various sheens - pink sheens, olive green sheens with silver dust, and some of the prized rainbow (see next photo)

 rainbow obsidian

A very nice rainbow obsidian, dug by Scott's Rock & Gem from the Aurora Borealis Pit at Glass Butte. This piece displays a range of colors from pink, to green, to blue. I did have to chase a fracture that ran down into the center of the piece, and I never did get it to completely go away. That's typical of the obsidian from here. There are fractures running along, and you sometimes just have to live with them. Still, this piece is a keeper!

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A very nice thunderegg from the famous Lucky Strike Mine, in the Ochoco Mountains of central Oregon. The mine was long owned by Leonard Kopcinski, and when I first went up there, he came down to meet me, wearing his sidearm. Despite the sound of this, he was very neighborly, and even fed me dinner. In subsequent visits, Leonard would tell me tales of his struggles to keep the mine open, under pressure from the Forest Service. But one thing that always stood out about our visits: his great love for the thundereggs, and for the mine always came shining through. He made me a believer just through his sheer enthusiasm. Sadly, Leonard passed in 2014, but what a great life he lived, up at his mine on the mountain. There aren't a lot of sole proprietor miners left these days. Leonard was the real thing!

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Another gorgeous, large sized Lucky Strike thunderegg. This one is almost as big as a bowling ball! I love it when the eggs have hollows within, where the agate didn't actually infill all the way, and you see the moss running this way and that, down into the egg, as just clay tubules with chalcedony lining. You have to cut a lot of eggs to get a nice one like this.

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Beautiful Black Rock Desert thunderegg. Not actually an Oregon location, but to a rockhound, those boundaries are a little nebulous sometimes (wink). This one comes from a now closed pit in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The eggs are distinctive with blue/black agate interiors and a good percentage of them have nice hollows with chalcedony structures within. I do have a connection with a digger who has good supply of these eggs, so if you are wanting to cut some, let me know, and I will hook you up!

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Lovely large limbcast from the Crooked River area, outside of Madras and Prineville. This was perhaps the most significant limbcast area in Oregon, and produced volumes of agatized limbs, with the limb structure still visible on the surface, but the interiors having been completely replaced by agate, and/or sugary rock crystal, as in this piece. The area is still open to diggers, but has been heavily dug. You have to have some determination and luck today to get a good limb.

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OK it's not from Oregon, but it's none-the-less worthy of a place in the blog. I got this Mexican Red Coconut from an old rockhound estate, and cut and polished it. These coconuts are also called "Red Hots". It's unclear to me whether or not there are any good current day sources for these, but I haven't really run across them that much in my travels, so I'm thinking they are not readily available. Beautiful red agate centers are reminiscent of the best of any American agates such as Dryhead from Montana.

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Nice Freida Bed moss thunderegg, from the central Oregon area. Oregon has so many thunderegg beds, it's hard to keep them all straight. Some are more historical at this point, and as I understand it, the Frieda Bed is one of those which is not really being dug anymore, either for lack of access, or else the pit is worked out. In some instances it just takes a renewed interest by rockhounds to get a pit reopened. Oregon rockhounds like Terry Ensel, and Tim Fischer have pioneered new access to old digging areas in current times. Other beds await to be explored. Without a doubt there are beds that have never been dug, and who knows what wonderful treasures await in the ground?

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Great butterscotch calcite from the Gopher Valley Quarry, Yamhill County, Oregon. This quarry is a commercial gravel pit, but they sometimes open up pockets of gorgeous butterscotch calcite cubes, with mesolite sprays. I don't have very many pieces of this material in my collection, and the ones that I do have are peanuts compared to some of the drop dead gorgeous, large combos that I have seen come out of this quarry. Last I heard, vandalism had occurred, and the quarry was closed to rockhounds.

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My county of Jackson, in southern Oregon, is not known for agatized limb casts. But they do occur here. Here's a very nice one that I unearthed while digging for agates in my local Lake Creek area agate beds. I windowed the end for display. The picture doesn't show it, but I hit this limb with my pick axe, and split it right in two. Wouldn't you know it? Since these are rare, I hadn't expected it to be there. So now it is a repaired limb cast, but still testifies to the unexpected treasure that awaits the avid digger.

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One of the largest, and best looking agate nodules that I have recovered from the Lake Creek area agate beds. The agate is actually up in the hills about five miles above the town of Lake Creek. It's random, and you just walk around in the woods to surface hunt, or else dig a little, if you think you are in an area where there may be some concentrations in the soil. But there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. If you can't find agate, just keep looking around until you come into an area.

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Uncommon dendritic agate from Agate Flat, on the Oregon/California border. This area is now mostly the Cascade Siskiyous National Monument, and the rest is a patchwork quilt of land ownership. I was lucky to be able to collect in pre-monument days, and found some very lovely agates with black dendrites of manganese oxide, that look like trees in mist.

GorgeousOregonDendrite

 You have to cut about 20-30 stones to get a good one like this. Very similar material comes from Madagascar, Brazil, and also Montana, but I think these Oregon treasures rival the best of them. Of course I may be biased!

GorgeousOregonGP

On Eastern Oregon's border with Idaho is the well loved Graveyard Point plume agate area. The  best of what this site produces are large chunks with long, streaming, feathery plumes, and a riot of colors. 

GorgeousOregonGP2

Another great presentation from Graveyard Point is the material that shows sharp straw golden plumes, accented by whites and blacks.

GorgeousOregonGPRR 

Graveyard Point plume from the famous Regency Rose Claim has lovely rose colored accents. 

GorgeousOregonGP3

Because Graveyard Point produces seam agate almost exclusively, and the seams are often large and long, it's possible to cut long slabs of scenic material that mix wonderful burnished antique colors with cloudlike plumes, for a fantastical look.

GorgeousOregonGP4 

The sheer variety and great mix of colors from this area is almost mind boggling. 

GorgeousOregonLS

 I had to pull this thunderegg out and photograph it for my blog when I was going through my collection the other day. It's loaded with great features that I've come to love in the Lucky Strike Mine eggs. The separation of agate infilling, and hollow chamber adorned with pink chalcedony "worms" is one of my favorites. 

GorgeousOregonRR

 Here's a handsome big double thunderegg from Richardson's Ranch near Madras Oregon. It's a great combo with its hollow geode cavity, some carnelian tints, and that nebulous, celestial ocean scene which never fails to transport me to some coastal realm. 

GorgeousOregonROMB

 This egg is a "slam dunk" from the old Ron Ochs Moss Bed, near Ashwood, Oregon, and collected during the heyday of field trips there that took place in the nineties, before Ron passed, and the ranch was sold, without a further collecting option. I've never quite seen a pattern like this: it kind of looks like twin waterspouts of moss whirling though a moss forest below some sort of riveting full moon sky. Gorgeous Oregon for sure!