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  • Writer's pictureBrian Rose

Unveiling Nature's Gems: Exploring the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area

Nestled in the heart of Oregon's rugged landscape lies a hidden gem, both literally and figuratively. Tucked away near the quaint town of Plush, the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area promises a journey into the depths of the Earth's treasures. Although I usually visit pay dig sites and have worked with many of the local mining companies, I often remember my first adventure to this enchanting destination, which keeps drawing me back again and again.

As my wife and I set out on our expedition, we heeded the warnings of many old-timers who had been there before us. “Take plenty of water, at least a gallon per day per person” advised one. “Be sure to have a full-sized spare, and your jack, also take a can of fix a flat” said another. “Be sure to print out a copy of the map, Google and your phone won’t work out there” advised another serial visitor to the area. All these things and more should be kept in mind before attempting a trip out to the Public Collection Area or the fee dig mines. Another thing to keep in mind is the closest store is 20 miles away, so bring snacks and food. The weather can go from 100° in the day to  40° at night, so bring warm clothing and many layers. Especially if you’re going to camp. Sunscreen is a must, even if it doesn’t look sunny, you’ll come home with a nasty sunburn without it. Also lotion is good to bring, as sifting through dirt and stone all day can leave you feeling very dry and rough.

When my wife and I finally got there, we couldn't help but marvel at the natural beauty that surrounded us. The landscape was a mosaic of rolling hills, verdant meadows, and towering pines, painting a picture of serenity and tranquility. It was amidst this pristine wilderness that the allure of sunstones beckoned me, their fiery hues promising a glimpse into the Earth's fiery depths.

Some tools you’ll want to bring to help you  be successful are a flat bottom shovel, a mattock (pickaxe), hand picks, chisels, and an 8 pound sledge are all useful. Take a look online at directions for making a hand screener, or you can even buy one online. Bring a couple of sawhorses to rest your screen on if you have the room to bring them. A couple of five gallon buckets are useful, one to put dirt into that you’re going to sift through, the other to drop the sunstones you find into. Don’t forget to bring a few ziplock bags to keep your treasures in once you’ve found them.

The collection area itself is a sprawling expanse of dusty terrain, scattered with rocks of various shapes and sizes. It’s a treasure trove waiting to be discovered, with each stone holding the potential to reveal a dazzling sunstone within. Every scoop of dirt into the screener holds the potential for a stone worth thousands of dollars in the right hands. A high quality red or “watermelon” (red with green around it) can be cut into a precious gemstone that can reach $900/ct at retail price.

Most of the stones you’ll find will be the golden or “champagne” color and usually no bigger than your thumb, though I have seen crystals as big as my fist before. The next most common color you’ll see is the pink “schiller” stones that are shot through with copper. The rarest colored stones are green, red and the elusive “watermelon” stones. If you find one of these in the public area, you’re lucky indeed. Most of these have been exhausted in the public area and are only found on private claims or fee dig sites.

As the day drew to a close and the sun dipped below the horizon, on our first trip out, we reluctantly bid farewell to the collection area, knowing that we had experienced something truly extraordinary. The Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area had not only allowed us to uncover nature's hidden treasures but had also provided us with a deeper appreciation for the Earth's unparalleled beauty.

In a world that often moves at a relentless pace, places like the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area serve as reminders of the importance of slowing down and reconnecting with the natural world. It is a sanctuary for the soul, where the whispers of the wind and the echoes of ancient history mingle to create an experience that is nothing short of magical.

As we journeyed back home, our pockets filled with sunstones, I couldn't help but reflect on the profound impact that this adventure had left on me. The Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area had not only allowed my wife and I to witness nature's splendor but had also reignited a sense of wonder and curiosity within us—a priceless gift that we will cherish forever.


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