Glass Buttes obsidian field trip

Glass Buttes Flint knappers camp 1May2018
Glass Buttes Flint knapper’s camp

I went on a field trip recently to one of my favorite places–Glass Buttes. Obsidian is everywhere you look! It’s like being a kid in a candy store. In fact in one of my previous posts, Glass Butte Dragonglass, I show a picture of some obsidian I have collected displayed in a candy bowl.

Obsidian at Glass Buttes, OR 1May2018
Obsidian everywhere you look!

Glass Buttes – Rockhounding and habitat

Located about halfway between the towns of Bend and Burns in eastern Oregon, this site is a rockhounder’s paradise. You can dig and crack open obsidian with a rock hammer, but you really don’t need to because it’s all over the surface.  The Bureau of Land Management oversees most of this site. Individuals may collect up to 250 pounds of obsidian per year.

Glass Buttes, Oregon 1May2018
Glass Buttes, Oregon

Glass Butte, elevation 6,388 ft., and Little Glass Butte, elevation 6,155 ft., tower over the surrounding hills. Sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and bunchgrass cover the landscape. Western juniper and mountain mahogany are interspersed over the land. Sagebrush-dependent species such as Brewer’s sparrows, sagebrush sparrows, and sage thrashers were seen and heard the day we were there. A pair of mountain bluebirds was seen perching high in the juniper trees. We caught glimpses of ferruginous hawks.

Mountain bluebird pair at Glass Buttes, OR 1May2018
Mountain bluebird pair

Geological history of Glass Buttes

Glass Buttes formed during the Miocene and Pliocene periods, 5-5.8 million years ago. Three layers of lava flows from volcanic domes and vents formed the buttes. The first flow was basalt, the second rhyolitic lava, and the third another layer of basalt. Rhyolite contains a high percentage of silica and it forms much of the substrate. Due to a rapid rate of cooling of magma at Glass Buttes, larger mineral crystals didn’t have time to form. The silica-rich “glass” of obsidian formed as a result of this process.

Lichen Painted Rhyolite Rock 1May2018
Lichen covered Rhyolite rock

Here’s an interesting article with more details about the obsidian at Glass Buttes for you geology geeks. Obsidian is Hot Stuff.

This area is in the Brothers Fault Zone of the High Lava Plains physiographic province. The many faults are easily observed in aerial photos and through the use of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data. A 2011 map of Glass Buttes based on LiDAR can be seen here.

Desert Driftwood
Desert Driftwood

Flint knappers then and now

Obsidian from Glass Buttes has been used in making tools for thousands of years. Native Americans made arrowheads, spear points, and other cutting tools with the glass-like stone. Obsidian from this site has been found throughout western North America.

Lupine at Glass Buttes 1May2018
Lupine at Glass Buttes

Modern day flint knappers take advantage of the abundance of obsidian at this site. Some groups meet annually at events such as the Glass Buttes Knap-in to work on their craft. My first photo on this post shows what flint knappers left behind at one of their campsites.

Types of obsidian at Glass Buttes

There are MANY types of obsidian at Glass Buttes. I will quote Tim Fisher who runs the Oregon Rockhounds Online website. “Need a list of what’s here? OK, here goes: black/mahogany, leopardskin, mahogany, Midnite lace, triple flow, double flow, pumpkin, purple and silver sheen, gold sheen, silver sheen, rainbow, peacock, purple sheen, fire, green, Aurora Borealis rainbow, black, opaque black, opaque banded, gunmetal, and probably many more!” If you want detailed information on where to find the different types, please purchase the Ore Rock On guide from his website. We own it and it contains invaluable info for sites in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana.

Glass Buttes Aurora Borealis Obsidian Photo by Tim Fisher
Glass Buttes Aurora Borealis Obsidian – Photo by Tim Fisher

Some rockhounds search for specific types, such as rainbow and fire obsidian, and they can be the most difficult to find.

Other land use

We made a couple additional short stops on the field trip. We stopped at an abandoned mercury-bearing cinnabar mine. The site was discovered in 1933 and mined until 1957. Another stop was made at an exploratory geothermal well site. No development is currently taking place but it may happen in the future. Greater sage-grouse live and breed here and that may limit development.

Obsidian-paved road at Glass Buttes 1May2018
Obsidian-paved road at Glass Buttes

Additional information

This is a great area to visit but I should remind you of a couple things. Obsidian is SHARP so make sure you have good tires and a spare tire. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for certain areas. There is no water or facilities here. If you visit, be prepared. Access to this site is on an unmarked road near mile marker 77 on Highway 20. Drive south a couple miles to find obsidian. Additional information is available from the organizations listed here.

I have been to this site several times. My recent trip was with Bend Parks and Recreation. I always wish I could stay at Glass Buttes just a little bit longer. It’s a hard place to leave if you love rocks!

Canutts Gems and Rockshop – Lotsa rocks!

Cool rocks – inside and out

Do you ever drive by a place a million times and think to yourself, “I’ve got to stop there one day.”  This rockshop, south of Redmond, Oregon, was one of those places for me. We finally stopped last summer.  The shop has hundreds of carefully labeled rocks inside and out.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop display room 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop display room

There are a wide variety of rocks in Central Oregon and this shop displays some of the beauties collected over the past 42 years by the owner. Owners Mel and Jerry Lindbeck obviously have a love of rocks. Mel shapes some of the rocks into spheres, bookends, and display pieces.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop

Lovely displays of rocks

We have been to plenty of rock shops over the years but this one displays them in lovely ways. The front room has a couple display cabinets, a table with small rocks, and windows lined with slices of semi-transparent agate.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop displays 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop displays

The back room is filled with neatly arranged specimens. In other rock stores we have visited, dust and dirt seem to be part of the collection. Not here. The polished spheres shine and sparkle, reflecting the light. The many amazing specimens invite you to take a closer look.

Oregon rocks

This is a good place to see some of the rock native to this area. Inside you can see thundereggs, petrified wood, jasper, agate, obsidian, and less common things such as Hampton green petrified wood. Outside you will see some of these same types of rock in boulder-size specimens. You will also see smaller specimens of some of the rocks in water-filled birdbaths that bring out their color. Rough rock is also on display outside in big piles.

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays

And more rocks…

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop outside displays

Though most of the rock is from Central Oregon in this shop, there are specimens from elsewhere as well. Pyrite, malachite (one of my favorites), lapis lazuli, copper, quartz, and fossils are all represented. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owner’s sense of humor about a special fossil in their collection.

So if you like rocks, think about stopping at this roadside attraction on Highway 97. To find out more about the shop, go to Canutts Gems and Rockshop.

 

 

Canutts Gem and Rockshop roadside sign 31August2017

Canutts Gem and Rockshop roadside sign

Please support our local businesses and buy rocks for yourself, friends, and family. Remember, a rock makes a special gift that lasts forever.

Rock Show – Madras, Oregon

We just got back from the Rock, Gem, and Mineral Show in Madras. I overheard someone say there were 135 vendors this year so it took a while to see everything. This is the 68th year of this event. It is sponsored by the The All Rockhounds Pow-wow Club of America, Inc. Prices for the rocks, gems, and minerals range from one dollar to hundreds of dollars. Parking, admission, and entertainment is free. The show takes place June 22-25.

Here are a few pictures I took today at the Rock Show in Madras. Do I know what the name is of everything I show in these pictures? No! I have always liked pretty rocks even if I don’t know what they are.  If you go to a big rock show like this, someone there can likely identify what’s there for you and tell you all about them. They may even tell a tale or two about the adventure they had when collecting them.