For many rockhounds – both experts and beginners alike – Oregon is the place to be. For agate hunters specifically, the Oregon Coast is perfect. There is such an abundance of agates that even the pea gravel used in children’s playgrounds is full of it. The other wonderful thing about agate hunting is that you do not need to be a rock expert to have a ton of fun with this kind of treasure hunt.
What is an Agate?
Agates are stones that are translucent to semi-transparent. More often than not, agates have bands that are visible when the stone is held up to the light. The agates without the bands are often translucent and are plume-shaped.
How is an Agate Formed?
Many agates will form in areas where there is, or has been, volcanic activity, and where there are waters that are rich in dissolved silica that flow through igneous rocks. This makes the Central Oregon Coast a prime location for agate hunting because of the number of independent volcanic landforms in the area.
When the water is highly concentrated with dissolved silica, a gel can form in the cavities of the igneous rock forms. Over time, the gel will crystallize and form microcrystalline quartz, and as layers of the gel crystallize, an agate forms.
What Equipment Do I Need?
- A backpack. You will need something in which to carry all your supplies. A small backpack, like the kind kids use for school, is the most efficient type of bag for this type of adventure, as it leaves your hands free for agate hunting.
- Water bottle/water. Staying hydrated is always important, especially when spending time outside in the sun.
- Snacks. Taking an assortment of various healthy snacks, such as nuts and dried fruits, gives you access to nutrients while keeping you from going hungry.
- Towel, dry shoes, socks, and clothes. Agate hunting along the beach can include getting wet in the ocean or streams that feed the ocean. If you are adventurous enough, you might wade through shallow waters to get to a great agate bed.
Aside from the basic supplies, here are some other pieces of recommended equipment:
- Rock Pick. These are handy tools that make it easier to break stones away from matrix stones, pick out crystals, and pry wedged stones out. If you are climbing, a rock pick can be used to hook onto objects above you for some assistance when climbing up or down.
- Shovel. Having a small, foldable shovel in your backpack is great for when you need to dig to recover a stone.
- Gloves. Gems and rocks can be extremely sharp, so having a pair of gloves, such as gardening gloves, is a must.
- Screen. Sometimes, the easiest way to find stones is to sift. A small screen makes sifting through the sand and other materials much more manageable.
- Magnifying Glass. Many rocks have clues on the outside as to what may be on the inside, such as geodes. However, sometimes those clues are so small, you will need a magnifying glass to be able to see them well enough to tell what it is.
- Spray Bottle of Water and a Rag. A spray bottle and an old rag are some of the best tools to have with you. With rocks mostly found in dirt, you will need to spray some of them off to be able to tell what it is you have found.
- Containers. These keep your findings from getting lost or broken. While you can purchase specially designed containers for specific materials, old medicine bottles, egg cartons, and Tupperware containers are everyday household items that do the trick.
- Emergency Supplies. Anyone exploring the great outdoors should carry emergency supplies with them. A basic first aid kit is a good idea. Plus, depending on the terrain you are exploring, and how long you expect to be out, it doesn’t hurt to include blankets and a fire starter.
Where Can I Go to Find Agates?
Yachats to Florence
The beaches between Yachats and Florence are some of the best places to find agates. This is because there is not one but five creeks that empty into this 22 mile stretch. These five creeks are Cummins Creek, Tenmile Creek, Big Creek, Bob Creek, and China Creek.
Between Yachats and Florence, there are five beaches known for being frequented by rockhounds. These beaches are Agate Point, Neptune Beach, Stonefield Beach, Roosevelt Beach, and Washburn Beach. Not only are these beaches great for finding agates, but you can also find agates with inclusions, bloodstone, jasper, chalcedony, and petrified wood.
Otter Rock to Newport
This eight-mile stretch includes the beautiful Beverly Beach and Moolack Beach They are not only great beaches to find agates, but they are full of fossilized mollusks and clam shells. If you go to Agate Beach, be prepared to spend a significant amount of time digging in the sand. While Agate Beach may sound like an excellent place to go, a large percentage of the agates are under several feet of sand. Newport is only about an hour north of our inn.
Cape Blanco runs from Sixes River to Port Orford. It is not only full of large agates, but agates can be found here in large quantities. Cape Blanco is an easy two-hour drive south of our inn.
How Do I Find Agates?
Hunting for agates can be a lot of work. Here are some tips to make your agate-hunting adventures a little bit easier:
Weather Plays a Key Role
While sunny days during the winter can be rare in the Pacific Northwest, they are the best for agate hunting. This means the summertime is perfect for rockhounding. The sun allows agates to be more easily spotted because of their signature translucent “glow.”
Waiting until after a big storm is also a great time to go, as many agates will get washed ashore by the giant waves caused by the storm. If the forecast calls for stormy weather followed by a sunny day, that’s your cue to get out there and go agate hunting.
Be Patient and Get Out Before the Crowds
Going out just before low tide is the best time to go agate hunting because the waves have had time to expose new agates. Sometimes, you may find agates within the first five to ten minutes of searching, but other times, you may not find any agates until the end of your day.
Getting out past the crowds is also important. If you go hunting next to a public parking lot, you may not find any agates, as they may have already been found and collected. Taking a walk down the beach, to a less popular area, is sure to give you more fruit for your labor.