Anyone who has followed the blog for longer than a couple of years knows that Michelle and I loved coming to the Oregon Coast for vacations. We loved spotting whales, going on beach walks, going to lighthouses just walking on the beach.
Oh and sunsets and good food, and waves, and the people, and the food and and and….
Was it any wonder we wanted to move here?
However, one thing I never did, was hunt agates. I knew there was a beach called Agate Beach. But in my head, it never equated with me looking for them. Who knew I’d be good at it….
What is an agate? Well here is the scientific definition.
Agate /ˈæɡət/ is a common rock formation, consisting of chalcedony and quartz as its primary components, consisting of a wide variety of colors. Agates are primarily formed within volcanic and metamorphic rocks.
In real life they are pretty rocks hanging around on the beach ready to be found!
I had no idea that Lincoln City was a prime agate hunting area when we got here, but it wasn’t long before I learned.
Now I have been asked more than once how I seem to find so many, and same that are so nice. So I thought I would give a Valente 101 agate hunters lesson.
First a disclaimer: I am FAR from an expert.
The methods I use are not foolproof, there is no guarantee you will find agates, and I know there are those out there who know more than me. So if you are an agate hunter, and read this and wanna comment, add tips, or correct something please feel free! The more we know, the more we will find.
So onto the lesson.
First rule of Valente agate hunting is NOT ‘don’t talk about Valente agate hunting.’ Its be safe! Some of the best hunting is in the late fall, winter and early spring. This is also the time of big waves!
We here at the beach have a rule, NEVER turn your back on the ocean. Waves will sneak up on you and can knock you over or even suck you back out. So watch the waves while hunting for agates. The one time it IS ok too turn your back is if you are in an all out sprint to avoid that big wave you already spotted! I get my cardio in every time I go!
Also, dress for the weather.
Notice our intrepid hero. First off I wear shorts year round. YES people think I am nuts. But I really am not a fan of long pants. In the colder months, I wear the tall rubber boots. Don’t skimp on these, as our water is COLD! I wear wool socks, without them your feet will get cold as soon as water covers them.
I am on my third pair since moving here. I put a LOT of miles on my boots. Over some rough terrain sometimes. You can see where I duct taped these trying to extend their life.
In the warm summer months I where an old pair of running shoes. The water is still cold, but the sun can make those boots hot!
A good waterproof coat and hat come in handy for rain showers or just to cut the wind. I also sometimes take rubber gardening gloves on the REALLY cold days… I also layer up, with a fleece vest under the rain shell. No sense in freezing ones butt off.
OK final ‘rule’ going to the beach is NOT about the agates. Its kinda like whale watching or searching for the floats we have in the non pandemic years.
If you come to the beach with the sole purpose of “I will find agates or my trip will be a waste! ” The agate gods will hide every rock! The beach is to be enjoyed for the beach. I go down for the walk for exercise, for the air, for the views. I look for agates but I also just look.
Here is just a sampling of what I saw the last few weeks of beach walking.
There are days I come back skunked, not a rock to my name. But that’s ok. Cuz a walk on the beach beats a day at work ANYDAY!
OK enough rules. Here is how I look for agates!
First off there is ‘when’ to go. High tide is not the best time to hunt. The water has covered the rocks and sand. High tide is needed though, as it churns up the beach and rocks exposing more agates to be found. If possible I like to get there a couple hours before low tide. The waves still churn up the rocks, but the waves recede enough to hunt. (remember the warning! If you follow the waves out as they recede, be ready to RUN back if needed! )
In the winter, as we know, the sun sets early and it gets dark quick. But low tide might be AT sunset. I bring a headlamp with me on days like this.
Others use hand held flashlights, but that is just too much to hold. for me. This keeps my hands free.
Now in that photo of me above with the boots, you will notice something in my right hand, its a sand scoop.
I first bought it as I thought I might see cool things in tide pools, like hermit crabs, on beach walks. Instead, this is the best agate hunting tool ever!
I don’t have to bend down time after time. I can reach into the water for one that I see farther out than I want to walk, and if I am on dead run from a wave but spot one, I can scoop as I go (this takes practice!). I have also, more than once, snagged an agate being sucked back out to sea as the waves withdrew.
It also allows you to rinse off the sand before putting them in a container or sack, AND helps keep your hands dry and warm. This comes with me anytime I go to the beach! It is much easier to use at night with the headlamp.
OK, so now WHERE to look. Well any beach will do.
A bit of an aside here, I look at the garden gravel areas in our neighborhood as well. A lot of times there are agates mixed in! Who knew you could agate hunt while walking to check the mail!
Sorry, back to the beach. Now I keep an eye out no matter where I am. Some of the BEST agates have been discovered all by itself in the sand. This one was, I found him all alone as I was walking toward the parking lot to head home.
But, the best places to look are areas where the sand is gone and gravel is left
Of course that is also where you will find other hunters. Don’t hesitate to look where others have been. Just last week I found this beauty.
I had watched no less than 5 people walk by the spot where it lay. But when I got there the sun hit it just right, and there it was!
Now for the Tony method. There are some who stake out an area, grab a shovel and dig. There are others who keep standing, but go back and forth in a small area. searching every inch, and then again after a big wave hits.
I don’t know the official etiquette in encroaching on these folks. But even before covid, I always felt it was polite to give them a wide berth. They were at that spot first, it would be rude for me to swoop in and take something.
I use the “miles method.” I get to the beach, pick a direction and just starting walking. I may zig zag a bit to prime areas, or circle back in a productive area. But I am there for exercise as well. so I will walk for miles then turn around and walk back, all the while looking for rocks, but also taking photos and just enjoying the ocean.
So what do you look for?
Without a doubt, this is the coolest one we’ve found, Michelle found it. It just glowed in the sun. But most do NOT look like this!
Not all are clear. And sometimes (OK A LOT) the sun aint there tome them glow.
So I tell people to look for any rocks that aren’t gray or black. Thats the easy part. Some will be obvious, they are shiny and clear. But other are orange/yellow
Or not quite clear but very shiny.
The trick for me was trial and error. The really clear ones were easy. But even today, I am not always quite sure. I end up bringing home ones that aren’t agates at all
The best test is the cell phone light test!
If it’s an agate they will glow. If it don’t glow, I toss it outside in the rockery. The more you hunt, the more discerning you will be, but know this, yesterday I tossed out 3 that I thought were and ended up not being so. I call em sucker rocks, as they suckered me into taking them home!
Don’t limit yourself to just agates. We also love sea glass. (by the way, check out the colors of the rocks here, they all passed the glow test! )
And check out this shell I found last week!
And some things just make you laugh!
Or amaze you! (Part of a whale skull)
Or you find out someone is watching you. (We named him Sal, he, and his buddies are ALWAYS keeping an eye on me)
Agate hunting is something that can be shared
Or done solo. A quick half hour or a 7 mile round trip hike.
Rain or shine, all year round (EXCEPT for high surf warnings If they say stay off the beach stay the hell off the beach!)
Use it for exercise or relaxation.
Or just cuz its fun to find treasure!
It is just one of the many joys of living on the Oregon coast! Good luck!!