Of all the areas a person can go hunting rocks, the Crook County area of Oregon is one of the most productive and pleasant. The countryside is gorgeous, altering between rolling hills, to tree covered mountains and deep winding canyons. Lakes, streams, and wildlife abound. Towns are small and friendly and offer all the necessities for hungry or weary travelers. If you are not a town person, preferring either built and maintained or primitive camping, you will find yourself at no loss for great spots to park yourself, either. In fact, the only thing I can see being a problem with going into this area at all is the problem of wanting to leave when it’s time to go home.
I have my favorite little secret spot on the south side of Prineville Reservoir, somewhere between 20 and 30 miles south of Prineville on highway 27.
The first few times down in the area I trolled the landscapes and found an abundance of excellent materials of all sorts: Heavily patterned jaspagates, beautifully colored banded agates of greens and golds, slabs of clear sharp quartz crystals, and geodes. After a few times there, I started exploring other areas, from the North East area of the reservoir out to the Ochoco mountains directly East, North, and South of Prineville.
What I found was that everywhere I went new and exciting types of specimens were just scattered around waiting to be picked up and carried off.
For those of you who are crazy about obsidian, take 27 down to the highway leading into Burns and take a left turn towards Burns then go to mile marker 81. Take the 4 wheel drive trail to the south of the highway. You are now in the Glass Butte area and my bet is you’ve never seen anything like it for obsidian. Anywhere back toward the Butte itself if you get out of the car you will find yourself walking on ribbons of obsidian of all varieties, some of these ribbons are several feet wide and most just continue on for any distance you wish to follow them. I have picked up specimens of gold sheen, silver sheen, mahogany, black with red, red with black, and occasionally a piece of the coveted rainbow.
There are a few things you will want to watch for on your Prineville adventures: the first being rattlesnakes. In the lower areas, especially in the canyon on the way to the reservoir. I saw no shortage of these little guys, but have never seen one in the Mountains to the West of the town.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
On my third trip to the area, I did find that porcupines roam freely in the area. I found that out by sitting for an hour or two at a local veterinarian’s office having quills plucked out of my dog’s mouth and nose. I never saw signs of bears anywhere there, although I’ve heard there are supposed be some, but I did see wolves and an impressively sized cougar. The animals seem to be well fed there, as none acted particularly aggressive. That isn’t a great theory to press, however, and if you are going to be in those areas it’s a good idea to brush up on how to act safely around various types of wildlife.
While you are scouring over maps and info this winter looking for great vacation hunting spots for next summer, you really should include a trip to Crook County, Oregon.