State of the Oregon Coast Agate Union: It Rocks Right Now
(Oregon Coast) – If there's one big hint about agate hunting along the Oregon coast, it's that storms are good for this endeavor. That's not to say you should go searching for agates during storms – as that's horribly unsafe – but rather that after a storm is when you're going to find them (above: photo by Joki).
And this season has had plenty of storms. Because of this, Lincoln City agate shop owner Laura Joki is gleefully proclaiming “This is agate hunting season!”
Joki, who runs Rock Your World in town, said recent spring storms have been keeping the agate-hunting conditions good. The last week and a half has seen lots of rocky action in sandy places.
“The gravel bars are shifting slightly but they are there more often than not, some days better, some days not so much,” Joki said last week. “I drove by Moolack beach and the D River wayside today and they both have good sized gravel beds.”
Above: the Cannon Beach area, such as here at Hug Point, can host plenty of gravel beds.
In late March, almost every beach in Lincoln City had a gravel bar exposed, Joki said.
“I would imagine that most of the beaches are starting to show good agate beds, from Cape Meares (on the Three Capes scenic loop) in the north, to Florence in the south,” she said. “This is, however, the gravel bar season. The spring ocean tides bring a lot of force to the shores and any storm in which the weatherman warns there will be minor coastal erosion is good news for rockhounds.”
On the north Oregon coast, gravel beds are also well known just south of Cannon Beach at spots like Hug Point and Arch Cape, at Oceanside and Tierra Del Mar.
These exposed gravel beds can be quite transitory, however, and some can appear and disappear in less than a day, literally coming and going with the tides (at right: photo by Joki).
For beginners, Joki suggested to walk into the sun and the agates should simply light up.
Wet rocks show their true colors better.
Walk into the sun for agates, look for the glow.
Big agates hang out with BIG rocks.
“Watch out for petrified wood, petrified palm tree, jasper, fossils and many more gems,” Joki said. “Sometimes even a piece of wayward jade or grossular garnet shows up.”
Agates come in all colors, but the rare ones are the blue-black, baby blue, pink, purple and green ones.
Check your agates to see if they are "clam bellies" - these are fossil casts made from agate of the inside of a fossil seashell. They will often have a bubble of carbon dioxide and water on the inside which produce a moving shadow when held against strong light. The bubble moves like the bubble in a level.
Joki said agates are just a rock, and like rocks they tend to congregate with other rocks.
Gravel beds at Tierra Del Mar, near Pacific City
“So your best chance to find an agate on the beach is to look where the highest concentration of rocks are,” she said. “The agates, jaspers and petrified wood, gem materials which are highly sought after on the Oregon coast, are all about the same 'Specific Gravity,' meaning they have a similar weight to mass ratio. When the ocean waves scour through the gravel, they sort the rocks. Sand and lighter rocks tend to float towards the top. Rocks like agate, Jasper and petrified wood are heavier and tend to be left in patches along with other materials of a similar specific gravity.”
She said it takes a pretty strong current to scour the beach enough to bring up gem material. But luckily for Oregon coast regulars, the storms have been frequent and powerful enough to do just that.
“If you are looking for bigger agates, they tend to hang out with other bigger rocks, you have a better chance of finding a whopper if you look amongst the courser gravel,” Joki said.
As always, keep beach safety in mind first. Stay away from the beaches during still-unruly tide conditions and never turn your back to the ocean. Sneaker waves are notorious for injuring people or even washing them away.
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