Metaline Quarry – September 2022

Metaline Quarry – September 2022

We have been wanting to go to this quarry for years, ever since seeing it mentioned in Gem Trails of Washington. In the book, a map merely points out a spot and lists “Trilobites?”.

The reason it’s taken us years to make it out here, despite it being relatively close, about 2 hours away, is that to access the quarry one must drive through a locked gate. The gate is opened by the gracious landowner, whose property is cut by the road to the quarry, only for club trips. We were invited to go along with the Northwest Paleontological Association, which has a standing trip to the quarry every September. When we visited Stonerose Fossil site, we met Greg, an fossil enthusiast who was the one who invited us and showed us around the quarry.

The specimens from this quarry that are available to reference, such as those in local museums, are unimpressive. After our top-notch trilobite finding experience in Utah at the U-Dig Trilobite Quarry, our desire to fossil hunt at the quarry lessened, but we still jumped at the chance when it came around.

Lucky we did, because the specimens that we found and that others found while we were there were much better than anything we had seen. They aren’t quite as durable and abundant as the U-Dig trilobites, but impressive nonetheless.

We only explored the lower portion of the quarry; the quarry is quite extensive. We learned that splitting rocks was not worth the time, the best tactic was to simply turn over already split rocks. We found some good specimens, although mostly lower halves and partial bodies, not many complete fossils.

In addition to the trilobite fossils, in the quarry we found pyrite, calcite, and barite druzy. Greg, our guide and expert, identified the fossil remains of excrement from a larger animal that ate trilobites.

The quarry was operated as a limestone quarry in the early 1900s, and the road up to the quarry pit passes the site of the old hammer mill. As with many historic mine sites, not much cleanup was done when operations ceased. All over the ground near the old hammer mill area were large metal balls that were used to grind the limestone, as well as other old metal relics.


Icicle Creek – August 2022

Icicle Creek – August 2022

After leaving Lake Wenatchee with some time to spare, we looked for rockhounding opportunities nearby. The rockhounding books recommend Icicle Creek, outside of Leavenworth, for tourmaline, beryl, and albite feldspar.

Upon leaving Leavenworth, we had a hard time looking at the roadcuts because most of the turnouts were already full of vehicles, despite it being a weekday morning. The rocks in the roadcuts that we were able to inspect were coarse grained granite with small, visible pieces of black tourmaline. The tourmaline would be attractive magnified under a microscope, but otherwise is pretty uninteresting.

The road was a little rough, but there are a few popular trailheads nearby, and we saw all types of vehicles driving it.

If you go to the location listed in the rockhounding books, they tell you to chip away at boulders to collect the tourmaline. This is definitely the way to go, but the material you’ll be collecting is likely to be uninteresting to the average rockhound.

We didn’t find any beryl, but if it’s there, it would be in pegmatite dikes in granite, and it would be opaque and impossible to remove from the matrix.

This location overall was disappointing and, in our opinion, should not be included in any general audience rockhounding books. We suspect this is one of a handful of “filler” locations included in the books.

The area is very scenic as seen in the photos below. 

After bring the rocks home and inspecting them closer, we found that many of the black bits in the granite aren’t even tourmaline, but biotite crystals. Nevertheless, they look very similar to the naked eye.

Henderson Flat Jasper – June 2022

Henderson Flat Jasper – June 2022

Central Oregon is an area of great abundance and variety when it comes to rockhounding. On recent trip in the area, we had some time to spare so we followed a lead for lily pad jasper. The material was said to be the same as the main lily pad jasper location, which was slightly underwhelming so we didn’t have high expectations for this spot.

Henderson Flat is part of the Crooked River National Grassland, and is about 40 minutes from Bend and from Prineville. We didn’t know anything about this particular area, but turned out it’s an OHV area. As we walked toward the lily pad jasper location that we were seeking we noticed other, colorful jasper littering the ground. The colors were varying shades of red, purple and brown and the pieces ranged from quarter sized to medium boulders, with plenty of fist sized pieces. Some pieces had some fracturing making it not ideal for cutting and working, but a lot of it was very solid and would make for nice slabs. The jasper was all over the surface of the ground, and we didn’t do any digging.

We didn’t explore the area very much, so there could be and probably are other interesting rocks around nearby. We also found some agatized wood mixed in with the jasper. The best time to explore this area would be a weekday morning because it’s a popular ORV area. The area where we collected was off the ORV trail, but dirt bikes zipping around near you would not make for nice rockhounding conditions.

The area is closed December through March. There is an abundance of great disbursed camping in the area and lots of unexplored area with unknown rocks to be found!

See the location listing for more photos and information.

Oceanside Beach, OR – May 2022

Oceanside Beach, OR – May 2022

We stopped at this beach access point after seeing the abundance of gravel on the beach. We happened to be at the beach about an hour before low tide, perfect timing for beachcombing.

In a very short amount of time we found agates, red and green jaspers, amigdyloidal basalt and zeolites.

It was a weekend and the rain and wind were mild so there were many other people on the beach and many were looking at the rocks but we still found plenty and left plenty to be found.

Generally, during the winter and times of rough sea, sand can be stripped and rock exposed. Because of this, you might have a better selection of rocks and less competition for them in the winter. Tall waterproof boots are a great tool here as they help keep icy cold water from filling your shoes and cutting your beachcombing short. However, we did see several people walking around barefoot despite the fact that the temperature was around 45 F.

Check out the location listing for photos of zeolites that we found on the beach.

Idaho Highway 3 Roadcut – April 2022

Idaho Highway 3 Roadcut – April 2022

This roadcut on Highway 3 in northwest Idaho is mentioned in a few sources as having opal in the basalt and even opalized wood. The primary mention of this location is in a masters thesis from the mid 1990s.

Minerals listed as occurring in this location are pyrolusite, red opal, white opal and wood opal. We found only pyrolusite and no opal. The pyrolusite is a small, black dendritic pattern on the basalt. While interesting, this is probably not enough reason to go out of your way to check out this roadcut.

This is a great roadcut in terms of the abundance of shoulder on the sides of the road and plenty of places to safely pull over and park. The road wasn’t too busy when we were here on a weekday afternoon.

The basalt has many good examples of pillowing as well as polaganite. Another roadcut leading up to this one had some very nice sinclined basalt columns.

When we visited, the snow had completely melted but in the winter snow from plowing would make this roadcut inaccessible. This is probably not a destination but if one is driving down highway 3 in Idaho and wants to stop and admire some basalt, this would be a good place to go.

Kettle Falls Bridge – March 2022

Kettle Falls Bridge – March 2022

We went back to a spot that we visited last year around this time. The spot is under the bridge over the Columbia River outside of Kettle Falls. The claim is that there are blue beryl crystals in pegmatite here.

Lanny Ream’s “Gems and Minerals of Washington” describes: [the crystals] occur in a sill about 10 feet above normal water level. Presently this sill covered by the water of Lake Roosevelt. At unusual times of extremely low water, access to this pegmatite is possible.’

The day we visited Lake Roosevelt we noted that the water was as low as or lower than we’ve ever seen it, so we figured if there was a time to be able to access the pegmatite, this was it. After checking the Bureau of Reclamation’s data on Lake Roosevelt’s water levels it seems our timing was good as the water was at 1256′, the lowest it’s been in since May 2020.

Despite the low water levels, we failed to find neither pegmatite nor blue beryl crystals. Perhaps this was not an ‘unusual time of extremely low water’. However, looking into the water the rocks showed no sign of changing so we are pretty confident that we got a good, thorough look at all the rock in the area.

What we did find was a couple of pieces of granite pegmatite with very small black tourmaline. Since most of the other rock in the area wasn’t granite it seems likely that the few pieces that we saw were brought in from another area. Most of the rock was marine metasedimentary rock, not where one would find beryl.

Although we found nothing and likely there is nothing to find, we would probably go back if the water significantly drops more. It’s interesting to see the low water level and be able to look at what the riverbed looks like.

Note that this area is part of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and collecting rocks is not allowed.

Black Rock Obsidian – September 2021

Black Rock Obsidian – September 2021

This is a nice spot off of Utah State Route 257. If you happen to be driving to the Sunstone Knoll or visiting the Tabernacle Hill Lava Tubes, both of which are north of this collecting area.

The road to the spot was very passable by any vehicle. We didn’t venture too far down the road so it was may get worse as you go farther. There may be claims further down the road but we saw no signage where we were.

The obsidian here that we found was black, mahogany and snowflake. The ground surface was littered with small pieces of all types but primarily plain black. The pieces on the surface were generally smaller than golf ball size but plentiful so a lot could be collected quickly with little effort. Searching the washes and gullies was more more fruitful than the open range area.

The road here goes through private property so make sure you’re on BLM land before collecting. You could spend a lot of time exploring this area and since it’s BLM land you could camp anywhere although there are no services nearby and very few people here. 

Lower Dacite Mountain – October 2021

Lower Dacite Mountain – October 2021

We went to the area south of Dacite Mt, near Lake Roosevelt to investigate the area at the base of the “mountain”. We have previously explored the “mountain”; more information can be found at the listing. The area near the lake is National Recreation Area and thus off limits to collecting rocks and minerals, but it’s still a very nice area and one can always look but not bring home the rocks. The lake is actually just the Columbia River and the mountain is more of a very large hill.

The bank of the lake here was sand and mud. We checked an eroding cliff for concretions which are rumored to be somewhere in Lake Roosevelt, but the cliffs were pure sand and mud. There were some interesting pieces of mudstone on the beach and near the cliff we spotted a bear print, but luckily the bear was presumably long gone from the area. 

We then walked the lower side of Dacite Mt and found some very small tourmaline in the dacite, but nothing else of interest. This area isn’t very popular when we’ve been there, but it looked like it would make a nice swimming spot for a hot summer day. 

Sentinel Butte – August 2021

Sentinel Butte – August 2021

This spot is mentioned in a Panorama Gem Club newsletter. The article’s author mentions coming out here around 2005. Since then, the area has significantly changed, especially as of 2015 when a wildfire came through.

Luckily, rocks are fireproof so we figured we could still maybe find something good. The Panorama Gem Club article talks about quartz crystals, smoky quartz and tourmaline. This site is right off of Boulder Creek Road, then half a mile down a dirt road. When we were here in August it was cool and raining so we didn’t risk driving the road and instead walked it.

We easily found the spot we were looking for but didn’t easily find the vein as mentioned in the newsletter, or anything of much interest. There definitely was quartz and tourmaline but nothing of great quality or quantity. On a less rainy day, it could be worth investigating the hills in the area or doing some exploratory digging.

Lake Chelan Flourite – August 2021

Lake Chelan Flourite – August 2021

When it’s hot, the hills southwest of Lake Chelan are always a good place to go. And they’re not crowded like the town. This was our third trip to the area in search of flourite. The last time the road was too icy to drive but this time it was clear and easily navigable by (4wd) car!

We had a lead on one spot, with GPS coordinates but as we drove as close as we could to the spot, we realized what the lines on the topo map were telling us: we were close as possible to the GPS cooridate but still 2500′ too high and no way to get down to the point of interest. UV flashlight revealed nothing notable on any rock up at the top of the hill, but we did find some great views and future campsites. The road we followed to get to this spot is called Slide Ridge Road.

See video below for a previous unsuccessful trip to this area.

Franson Peak – August 2021

Franson Peak – August 2021

Rockhounding literature suggests that 2-3 foot amethyst geodes can be found on Franson Peak. There is a 0% chance this is true, but we went out to take a look anyway. Franson Peak is primarily private timber property but the road up to the peak is public.

Assuming that there is some truth behind the claims about this area, we slowly drove up, scrutinizing roadside rocks as we drove. Around halfway up the road became too rough for our vehicle and we had to turn around. We inspected the rocks at this point and found some interesting quartz that could possibly be mistaken for agate but it was definitely not agate and not a 2-3 foot amethyst geode.

Despite not finding much, this area is still worth checking out. There is a write-up in a Panorama Gem Club newsletter of a member getting a tip and finding agates in this area. The peak south of Franson Peak, Mt Elizabeth, is primarily public land and seems like a good place to do some scouting.

Fossil Bowl – July 2021

Fossil Bowl – July 2021

We’ve been wanting to check out the Fossil Bowl in Clarkia, Idaho for a while, and when the hot temperatures finally dropped for a brief second, we headed out to Clarkia to hopefully find some nice fossil specimens!

This is fee dig, $10 per person, no time, weight, or specimen limit. Leaf, fish and small mammal fossils have been found at the Fossil Bowl. The site is also a motocross track, of the same name. The fossils were discovered when the track was originally being dug out, at that time for the purpose of snowmobiling. It’s probably best to stop by this site when there is not a motocross event going on because they can be loud and dusty. This certainly isn’t a road cut up a quiet logging road. Information on events happening at the Fossil Bowl can be found on their facebook page.

Collection of vertebrate fossils on public lands is prohibited, however this site is privately owned, so this is a rare chance to collect non-plant fossils. In our search, we didn’t find anything non-plant, but the leaf fossils were incredibly plentiful. The rock was very easy to split with a hammer and butter knife and most rocks had partial leaves or other plant material like twigs or conifer needles. We split a lot of rock and found that the best strategy was to try to cleanly separate layers in as big of rock as possible in order to maximize the chance of finding a whole specimen. We found many, many partial leaves and only one whole leaf in our entire day searching. However, the variety and quantity of the fossils was very interesting and not something that can be found anywhere else in the area.

We have very minimal fossil knowledge, but some of the fossils here are reportedly so well preserved that when the rock is split the leaf can be red or brown before turning black from oxidation. There’s a wide variety of leaf types and care must be taken to preserve the fossils after they are collected.

The site is easy to find and the large wall with the fossils is easy to spot. It’s a good idea to call ahead before making the drive out to the site because wet weather can make for poor fossil hunting conditions and a motocross event could make for an unpleasant time. Plus, you’re unlikely to have phone service at the site so better to plan ahead than potentially waste your time. We called ahead and were told to start working the fossil wall when we arrived and the person running the site would be around, but we didn’t see anyone other than some people riding dirtbikes and another person who came to search for fossils. There were no signs as to how to pay or how much to pay or any information anywhere. This may be atypical, as we’ve heard of others who have been shown where and how to find fossils and given a little more information than we got.

This is a fee dig but don’t expect much instruction or hand-holding when you come out here. Some tools are supposedly available for use, but best to bring your own. A thin butter knife or putty knife and a hammer are ideal here. There are two walls with fossil bearing rock, one is further down the road from the main wall that is more easily visible. We didn’t know this, as there is no signage, but we heard that the second wall is where the vertebrate fossils are found. We certainly found no vertebrate fossils in the first wall, so that may be true.

Kit Carson Mine – July 2021

Kit Carson Mine – July 2021

On a hot July day, we decided to head somewhere cool and thus went up Mount Spokane in search of the Kit Carson Mine. Multiple sources list the mine as being located between Trail 140 and Trail 110. The Kit Carson Mine is known for producing autunite, a type of uranium, which is found in a ~100 square mile area around Mount Spokane. Autunite is found in decaying granodiorite.
We took Trail 110, then started tromping off trail through the huckleberry bushes and downed trees toward the mine location. However, we found no mine and no evidence of former mining activity. It is possible that we were in the right location but the dense vegetation obscured any tailing or mine detritus. We barely saw any rocks apart from the rocks on the road, which were mostly quartz and granite and did not glow under UV light.

South Baldy – July 2021

South Baldy – July 2021


We went out to South Baldy, north of Usk, Washington, to investigate historic reports of smoky quartz crystals near South Baldy Mountain.

As we were driving and inspecting the roadside, we noticed some obvious diggings. We went in for a closer look and found a number of dug out holes that looked like they hadn’t been worked in several years. There was a variety of material: quartz, smoky quartz, decaying granite, mica and black tourmaline. The presence of those materials generally means that quartz crystals could be present, however in our short time looking through the tailing of the holes we did not see anything resembling a crystal. There was some very clear, small pieces of quartz, but not in crystal form. With more time, it may be possible to find quartz crystals here at this dig site, or somewhere else on South Baldy.

Highway 97 Jasper – June 2021

Highway 97 Jasper – June 2021

There is a roadcut on Highway 97 in Oregon, near the town of Biggs that has historically been a source of picture jasper. In 1964 a storm washed out part of the highway here and when the road was being rebuilt, picture jasper was revealed which started the ‘Biggs Picture Jasper’ craze. The roadcut has been stripped clean…until now!

Currently, spring 2021, a highway construction project has exposed further into the cut, thus revealing Biggs picture jasper, as well as black chert. When we visited, we found a fairly large amount of high quality picture jasper. The roadcut seems a little unstable and it was clear that other rockhounds have been to this area looking for and collecting the recently exposed, highly coveted material.

In the afternoon, we found a very large, approximately 300lb boulder of picture jasper. The next day it was no longer there, meaning that someone made off with the find of the century, it only took the effort of hauling away a 300lb boulder off the side of a busy highway.

Crystals in The Dalles – June 2021

Crystals in The Dalles – June 2021

There is a roadcut off of Highway 197 right outside of The Dalles, Oregon. The roadcut has been well known since 2001. One can find yellow calcite crystal, that form in “calcite pineapples”. The roadcut also has rocks covered with a thin layer of calcite.

There is a place across from the roadcut to pull off and park, but it is at a busy road and not a destination spot or a good place for inexperienced rockhounds and kids or pets. This would be a nice quick stop when driving on I-84.

Garnets in Idaho – June 2021

Garnets in Idaho – June 2021

There are a couple of spots in the Rockhounding Idaho book that show garnet and staurolite cross collecting in north-central Idaho. We went to investigate them but after plotting the GPS coordinates, it’s clear that all spots are on private property. The book lists the areas as public lands, national forest, but it is definitely private property.

We didn’t spend much time investigating as it is not public property, but what we saw was garnets embedded in schist, which would be near impossible to separate out. The garnets were primarily 1/8 inch in size.

If you’re after garnets, the best spots is the Emerald Creek Garnet Area or the Fossil Bowl, both fee digs, for larger sized garnets. For free spots, the Salmon River has plentiful garnet sand, as should most of the creeks and rivers in this area.

In summary, the rocks are pretty disappointing and you have to trespass to get them.

Rome Snakeskin Agate – May 2021

Rome Snakeskin Agate – May 2021

We were driving past Rome, Oregon so we decided to stop to collect snakeskin agate since it is so unique looking and the collecting location is only a few miles off of the highway. In addition, books describe this location to also have jasper, agate and apache tears. This was a last minute addition to our trip so we hadn’t done any research or planning before we headed out to the spot.

If we had done research and planning beforehand we would have found that the GPS locations in both Oregon rockhounding guidebooks are on private property. Whether it’s okay to rockhound on this specific parcel of private property is unknown. The guidebooks clearly state that this is public lands and it clearly is not. There is public land very close to the GPS locations given in the book and there likely is agate there but it is irresponsible to send people to rockhound on private property without indicating that it is private property.

However, we were unable to make it all the way to the rock collecting spots because the road was washed out and currently is only passable by highly capable off road vehicles. The brown pin in the photo below marks where the road was impassible. There is another road that appears like it could lead to the other side of the intersection near the impassible spot, but on satellite view it’s clear that that other road no longer exists and is not a possible route in.

Red Marble Mine, Addy Roadcut – May 2021

Red Marble Mine, Addy Roadcut – May 2021

We were in the area so we decided to head up to the Red Marble Mine. This is a spot that we have visited previously. Some people told us that it was actively being mined and that it had been fully mined and there was no material left. This seemed doubtful so we went to check it out for ourselves. The mine did indeed look like it had been recently worked: the boulders blocking the road looked like they had been rearranged since our last visit and there were more piles of gravel in the pit. However, there is still a nearly infinite amount of material. We found some red marble with magnesite in it and some other rock with very fine pyrite on the surface.


After the Red Marble Mine we headed to the roadcut in Addy. This also is a spot that we have visited previously. Last time we drove by here we noticed that the concrete barriers had been removed so we returned to check to see what kind of work was being done at the roadcut. We found that the shoulder at the base of the roadcut had been filled in the dirt and gravel and compressed with machinery. In addition, the wall of the roadcut was covered in dirt which made inspecting the rock difficult. We found evidence of other rockhounds looking for trilobite fossils and found the rear end of a trilobite in one of their discard piles. This is the most evidence of a trilobite fossil that we’ve ever seen at this spot. The rock across the road from the roadcut  was easier to search through because it wasn’t covered in dirt like the roadcut was. We found some nice sea sponge fossil specimens in that material but nothing too exciting.

Graptolites, Beryl and Concretion Rumors – April 2021

Graptolites, Beryl and Concretion Rumors – April 2021

We went out following some vague reports of graptolite fossils on Kings Road. We couldn’t find Kings Road, so we took Orin-Rice Road, between the towns of Addy and Rice. We found one interesting road cut with interesting quartz, and potentially fossil-containing shale, but we were unable to find any fossils.

From there we went to the bridge in Kettle Falls, following a report of beryl crystals under the bridge when the water’s low. Found no signs of any beryl. The water was about as low as it gets, though perhaps what is considered ‘low water’ levels has changed over the years.

While we were near the Kettle Falls Campground, we decided to check if the ranger station was open to see if the concretions, as mentioned in multiple Washington rockhounding books, were on display. The ranger had never heard of them. Perhaps they were removed many years ago but the rumor remains.

Next, wanting a sure thing, we stopped at the sulfide mineralization spot near the city of Kettle Falls.

This was a weekday, so we stopped in at the Stevens County Courthouse is Colville, as we’ve heard that there is a display of minerals in the building. There was indeed a very old-looking display of a great variety of minerals that have been found or mined in Stevens County. Worth a look if you’re driving through and want to take a quick break. A video and more information on the mineral display can be found here.