When your state has one of the most beautiful gemstones in the world and you’re in the rock business, of course you’d want to go check out the area where they are mined. After 28 years of being in the biz, I finally got a chance. Our teenage kids had just got out of school for the summer and we decided to take a road trip to the Oregon Sunstone mines.
The mines are 7 hours from Portland in south-central Oregon, so we broke up the drive by stopping to see Oma and Grandpa in Bend. From Bend, we headed straight down to the Spectrum Sunstone mine. Most of the terrain in the area is pretty monotonous, but every once-in-a-while, you come across some interesting rock formations and vegetation. The last hour of the drive is along a gravel road and all we saw was miles and miles of low sagebrush, with the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in the background.
When we arrived at the Spectrum Sunstone mine, we were first greeted with funny signs (“All adults must be accompanied by a miner”) and second, by a large snake in front of the office door! As soon as we got to our camp spot, while the rest of the family was setting up the tent, I started filling my pockets with sunstones. I spotted them all over the ground. They were literally everywhere! These are the low grade sunstones, but still a pretty, translucent pale yellow.
The next day we started out early while it was cool. We chose to pay $200 to sort through a load of mined rubble that hopefully contained some of the nicer sunstones. We were looking for stones with “schiller,” which is the pinkish sheen the copper inclusions make, as well as red and green sunstones, which are much more rare. It took the four of us about 4 hours to go through the pile. We found a dozen pieces with schiller and a bunch more nice-sized lower-grade pale yellow stones.
While sorting, we had another visit from an unusual creature popping out of the rubble — a very large cartoonish bug unlike anything we had ever seen before. (Check out the picture!) With the internet’s help, I’ve been able to identify it as a Jerusalem Cricket. Even though it was only the middle of June, it was extremely hot down there with absolutely no shade. The second time I applied sunblock, I forgot to ask someone to apply it to the back of my shoulders and got sunburned! So if possible you may want to consider going there in May or October.
The evenings were magical, as we were able to see the night sky without any light pollution and with a horizon that stretched for miles. It was also great physical therapy to bend our heads up to look at the stars after bending our heads down all day to look for sunstones!
Camping at the Spectrum mine is free, and they even have flush toilets and showers. They also have a couple of tee pees and some cabins for rent, and they waive the fee to stay in these if you pay to dig. You can also camp and gather sunstones in the public collection area right next door. The various private mining claims comprise 20 acres within the 2 square miles of public collection area on BLM land. The public collection area, however, has no water and pit toilets.
If you’re a rockhound or a parent looking for a fun road trip/activity to share with your kids, I highly recommend this trip! Just remember to take sunblock (and apply it liberally!), work gloves, some form of shade and a bucket to put your finds.
Crystals and stones can be so healing. I get an uplifting feeling from the sunstones. Many people believe that the crystal healing properties of Oregon sunstone include, leadership, optimism, good will and good luck.