Pan, Pick, and Prod: Rock Hounding in Southern Oregon
There are plenty of opportunities for rock-hounds in Southern Oregon. Whether you’re a hardened miner or just a hobby gem seeker, a few guidelines will help ensure that your outing is a successful one. Obviously, get all your permits and passes set up beforehand. Check with relevant agencies to ensure that your gem trail isn’t on private property or in a sensitive ecological zone. Proper tool help—a chisel, a shovel, and a four-pound crack hammer works well for busting up larger rocks; a pair of safety goggles ensures you can still read when you go home. Investing in maps can be save time and money and a good book like Gems of Oregon can take you far.
Elliot Creek Ridge: Nice outcrops of garnet schist exist just west of the Squaw Lakes campgrounds. Search for soapstone and garnet in the cuts along the north road. You never know what you’ll find due to a history of heavy metamorphosis. Directions: cross the Applegate Dam and drive 8 miles to the Squaw lakes trailhead.
Illinois River: The rare mineral josephinite (often mistaken for a meteorite) can be found along the banks of the Illinois River as well as agate and jasper in the many gravel accumulations. Gold and platinum have been found up Josephine creek, so bring a gold pan. Directions: turn off highway 199 past Kerby on Eight Dollar Mountain Rd. An extensive gravel bar exists just below the bridge.
Althouse Creek: Here you can find the pink shades of manganese magnesium carbonate; aka, rhodonite. This material takes an excellent polish. There are also traces of red jasper and gold for panning in the stream. Directions: following signs to the Oregon Caves, turn off 46 onto Holland. Take Kendall Road half a mile to Althouse Creek Road and drive five miles until you hit USFS land. The creek is below.