I bought a new rockhounding book the other day. First thing, I checked for locations close to us. Usually, I get the Calapooia River or Gold Hill. But in this book, Rockhounding Oregon, a new location was listed: Holleywood Ranch. Located in Holley, Oregon, it was less than an hour away. Day trip! And so, today we loaded up the van and drove to Holleywood Ranch, home of some of the Northwest’s best digging for petrified wood.
We’d never heard of Holleywood Ranch, and we invited a friend who’d never heard of it either. We were pretty excited and even the kids willingly got up early so we could beat the heat.
NOTE: I didn’t notice when I read the book, but an appointment is recommended. I didn’t realize until we were sitting in the driveway, oops. Thankfully, the owner, Brad, answered his phone and he was super cool about it. Told us to where to park, where to find things, gave us permission to use the water hose and bathroom, and made arrangements for payment. Whew! But you’ll want to call first. Their number is at the bottom of this post.
Enter the driveway and go straight to the back of the property. There are two fences. You can go through the first, park in the middle, before the 2nd gate.
The first gate is shown here. It was a hot day, so we chose to park up by the house (it’s currently empty) in the shade.
The owner has very thoughtfully provided wagons for hauling gear and rocks. We brought wagons up to our cars and loaded up. We’d taken several buckets, shovels, picks, pry bars, etc. And lots of water, hats, and sunscreen. Once you’re out there, there’s no shade and the sun gets warm quickly.
The ground is flat and the wagons can be pulled to almost anywhere on the property. Once through the two gates, you’ll pass the scale, the pump & hose for washing rocks, and a huge petrified log. If you visit, take a minute to look at this, it’s pretty awe inspiring!
You can see how large this is. The colors were beautiful and the bark was still visible. Solid rock.
Right after the log, you’ll arrive at the first pit. The owner periodically digs fresh pits and fills in older ones. The first pit looked fun, so we dug right in.
We reached the first pit and immediately our daughter grabbed a shovel and jumped in. All of the rocks you see are petrified wood.
We also had a stroller. It’s a pretty rugged stroller and it could have made it wherever we needed to go, but we never took it further than the first pit. At first, I dug in this pit while everyone else spread out to explore the others. All of the pits are fairly near to each other and we let the kids roam (except our 3 year old, he stayed with me).
My husband looking down into another pit. There were quite a few small ones between him and me. And the surrounding countryside? Beautiful!
Such a lovely ranch. The farmhouse that we parked next to is the house in the photo.
We do everything as a family. My 3 year old was thrilled to throw rocks, and our 4 month old hung out in the stroller. The first pit is in the background.
And soon I found my first piece of petrified wood.
I used a hand trowel at first.
The digging was easy, so I quickly had the piece loose and scraped off the clay. It was a nice piece, but ultimately I found so many other nice pieces that I didn’t keep this one.
My daughter found this one right away. I think that might be some agatization? We plan to polish it and see how it looks.
After a while, my husband came to watch the little ones and dig around in the first pit, while I left to explore. I soon found my older kids and a friend digging in a pit with some seepage in the bottom.
Several pits had water in the bottom. One even had bubbles coming up from a natural spring!
My daughter was thrilled to show me her big find…a gorgeous piece of tree trunk. Lovely colors (when wet) and perfect tree rings. She said it took her 20 minutes to dig it out!
The same rock, once home and cleaned up, with my hand for perspective.
After exploring all of the pits, we were starving and it was time to head out. We packed up the wagons and found our way back to the hand pump with the hose. The owner told me we were welcome to use the hose to wash up and to wash our rocks.
Tip: just lift the handle, it doesn’t actually need to be pumped.
By the time I got to the pump, my husband was already there and was cleaning our very muddy 3 year old.
The orange bucket is full of our favorite rocks, soaking to remove the thick clay. The pile to the left is the bone yard, discarded petrified wood from past rockhounds.
The bone yard, or discard pile, up close. Some really nice specimens are here! You could easily take home a lot of petrified wood just from this pile.
Next stop was the scale. It’s old timey, but it works fine. Load it up, balance it, and see how much you have. We had 27 lbs. At the current price of $1.50 per pound, that was about $40.
After weighing our rocks, it was time to eat! We were starving and had been working hard for about 3 hours. The house (remember, it was empty for our visit) has a lovely catalpa tree in the front yard and we appreciated its shade for a picnic. It’s worth noting that the owner of the ranch also owns a pizza place in nearby Sweet Home and they promise to treat rockhounders well. We were tempted, but we’d already brought our picnic and the kids were ready to chow down.
Later, at home, I laid out our treasures in the backyard. Many of these we’ll take to a local rock shop for cutting, polishing, and maybe even a couple of slabs. Mostly we want to leave them natural, but we may try coating them with an acrylic for a permanent “wet” look to bring out the colors.
This isn’t our best video, but we were so excited that we forgot to take a real one for the blog. So enjoy 26 seconds of surrounding countryside, a pit, and dialogue about the petrified wood. Oh, and some really cute kids.
Cost: $1.50 per pound, no minimum Amenities: water for cleaning rocks, bathroom, wagons, some tools Our kids ages at the time of visit: 11, 6, 3, and 4 months Gear needed: rock hammer (or hammer and chisel), shovels, buckets for carrying gear and rock washing water. Drinking water, sunscreen, maybe a shade canopy. For babies, a stroller actually works fine, but a backpack carrier might work, too.
Contact the Holleywood Ranch
26250 Old Holley Rd
Sweet Home, OR 97386-9536
I’m a middle-aged mom of 3-6 and sometimes more, depending on day. I’m out of shape and usually exhausted. Our favorite summertime activity (and sometimes on dry winter days) is getting outdoors and finding adventure.