Your little rock lovers will marvel at the shiny quartz, agate and obsidian you can collect at two local parks.

We get used to a lot of awesome things in Portland: plentiful parks, unique breweries, tasty food for every intolerance. But here’s one thing you just might take for granite (ba-dum-dum) — the amazing geological landscape surrounding us. In other words, there are cool rocks in abundance — and I mean like petrified wood and fossils cool — and maybe even in your own backyard. 

My three kids and I went a little farther than our own backyard for our rock hunting, or its technical term, “rockhounding” — or what my youngest, Teddy (age 5), refused to call anything other than “rock pounding.” But not much farther. Just 20 minutes from downtown Portland, West Linn’s Mary S. Young Park is an excellent destination for rock lovers, nature lovers and even bald-eagle lovers — we saw two eagles flying and calling to each other while we were there. 


Although you can spend the greater part of the day exploring the woods and checking out the multiple beaver dams, we were on a mission. To make the most of your rockhounding, park in the larger of the two parking lots at the end of the drive (not the first one you see when entering), then take the paved path all the way down a steep hill. When the path comes to a T, turn right. Within a few hundred yards, you’ll reach the river. 

At first glance, the rocks and pebbles underfoot don’t seem unusual. But take a closer look, and you’ll find a rock-hound’s paradise. In the hour or two we were there, we found chunks of petrified wood, quartz, agate and jasper (a lovely brick-red rock). Another bonus with this spot is that the rocks have largely been rubbed smooth, making them great worry stones to keep in your pocket. The best find of the day was a piece of petrified wood that totally looked like wood, bark and all, about the size of the palm of Teddy’s hand. 

Next up, and just a few minutes away, we headed to Lake Oswego’s George Rogers Park. This is one of our family’s favorite spots for river swimming, but it is also a worthy destination on its own for the huge black chunks of obsidian lining the beachfront. The glasslike obsidian not only looks cool, but it’s even more cool once you tell your kids that what they’re holding is actually a big chunk of lava. (And, if you like rock jokes — because who doesn’t — you can break out the classic, “This rock was magma before it was cool.”) In addition to the black, we found a few — much smaller — pieces of purple, green and even blue obsidian.

We ended up with a decent stash of treasures from our day’s hunt. I loved spending the day outside exploring together, and the excitement of a really special find. It was also fun to learn together about what the different rocks were and how they were made — and also, apparently, that obsidian can give prophesying powers. The internet said so, so it must be true. I’d say I’m less excited about a few bags of rocks lying around the house, which, I prophesy, will end up scattered around the house and stepped on by tender feet. (Hey, the obsidian’s working already!) I’m hoping these will gradually make their way outside to brighten our fairy garden. But for now, the kids are content extending the fun by trading their (semi-)precious bounty.

Ali Wilkinson
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