Richardsons Ranch

This huge ranch has the best exposures of what were known as the Priday agate beds. This is the best place for the amateur rockhound to dig a world class thunderegg. The beds are kept clean of overburden, and the digging is as easy as it gets. There are three beds (red, blue, pony butte) that have the classic thundereggs, and several other beds with the moss and plume agate. I spend most of my time in the blue bed as the eggs in this bed are the best. The plume bed is open for digging only occasionally as it must be staffed to ensure the diggers know what they are supposed to put in their bucket. It is usually open over holidays or during the local rock and gem shows. I have been told many times the plume is dug out, and it seems that way sometimes...but there is plume there.

The blue bed is my favorite because the consistency of the fine agate is unmatched in any other thunderegg bed I have dug. The spherulites (duds) are easy to spot and discard as they have no pressure ridges and a bubbly skin. Moss, plume, and other zeolite inclusions are common as well as my favorite type of thunderegg... the 'window egg', occasionally shows up. When cut properly this thunderegg shows the waterline agate layers in the middle of the fortification agate, resembling a window, instead of being at the bottom as in most thundereggs. In the late 1960s, the Geode Kid discovered a twenty foot long area in the bed where fifty percent of the eggs were 'windows'. He called this exposure the Blackjack drift as many of the eggs had black and white colored 'windows'. These eggs commanded high prices and the small section these were found in was dug so heavily, the blue bed developed a big bow in the middle that became dangerously undercut. The owners at the time (before Richardsons), blasted this dangerous wall down and the Blackjack drift was no more.

Today the old blue bed has been abandoned for a new bed called the 'south blue bed' that is a few yards southwest of the old bed. It seems the overburden got too high in the old bed for it to be economically feasible to scrape it off. The old blackjack drift is covered in overburden and cattails and unless I win the lottery and buy the ranch, this exposure is done.

The good news is that the new south pit has a few 'window' eggs. While not as prolific as the old bed, I dug several 'windows' on my trip in July of 2013. The better news is that all the eggs I dug at the new south blue bed and had cut at Richardsons Ranch rock shop were fantastic. The agate is so pretty and colorful with common opal and waterline agate in every color of the rainbow. A very few are hollow with fine chalcedony 'stalactites' that florescence a pretty green.

The following pictures are from my dig on July 2nd 2013 at the South Blue Bed, Richardsons Ranch...enjoy.

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A 'window' egg I had cut at Richardsons rock shop. They do not polish so this egg is pictured wet. Not black and white, but still a nice thunderegg. Notice this egg is missing one of its caps (no brown matrix at the top). The nice agate is still there but the egg is missing the matrix on the top that distracts a bit from being perfect.

This egg broke on extraction. It shows a square 'window' that will cut and polish nicely. Notice it is also missing its bottom cap. Pictured licked (wet).

This egg was a triple so I had it cut (not polished) at Richardsons rock shop. Although it had to be cut 'wrong' to include all three eggs, it turned out the 'wrong' cut was the best way this unusually hollow egg could be cut. The chalcedony fluoresces a bright green under UV light. Pictured wet.

This egg broke on extraction. I was very lucky that it broke in two nice halves. The common opal at the bottom is typical of the eggs found immediately below the black unaltered perlite that frames the top of the blue, red, and pony butte beds. As in all the hollow eggs found in the blue bed, the chalcedony florescences a bright green. This egg can still be cut and polished... a very nice egg with both its caps and vibrant colors.

This is one portion of the new south blue bed. Notice the black unaltered perlite capping the productive eighteen inch layer of altered perlite (bentonite/kayolinite clay). Do not dig in the black perlite or let a piece fall on your foot. It is very heavy and will cause much pain. The black perlite has a few eggs in it but they are rarely good, containing solid pink opal or nothing at all (duds).

I spent some time exposing the tops of the eggs so you could see where they occur in the clay. Notice how there are only a few at the top, becoming more numerous at the floor. Near the bottom is where you will find the doubles and triples. In the very center are the best eggs containing the best agate.

First egg out was broken showing pink waterline agate. Most of the thundereggs are broken or missing their caps. This is caused by the freezing and weathering from the brutal Oregon weather. If they were all good it wouldn't be as much fun.

This is the content of the pocket shown in the previous two pics. The four eggs on the right (one double) are perfect and will go in my bucket. The others still have nice agate but are missing their caps or broken. They will not go to waste as the many rockhounds who come to dig at Richardsons Ranch will put these eggs in their buckets and be very happy. My discards rarely last the day and most folks wonder aloud why someone would not keep such lovely rocks. But... I live in my little truck and I cannot fill it up with imperfect eggs.

One of my favorite eggs of all time is in the possession of Richardsons Ranch rock shop.

I was cutting brush on my property when this happy face showed up. It can happen in wood and rocks.

THE RED BED

John Richardson (on the backhoe) and his son Casey cleaning up the red bed.

The red bed is one mile from the blue bed... but the eggs, and the location in the clay of the best agate, is different. I have found the best eggs in the blue bed are in the top half of the productive bentonite clay, but in the red bed, it is the green skinned eggs, cemented to the floor of the vein, that are the best. There are some great looking eggs found in the upper part of the red bed vein... nice, smooth, classic eggs, but these are not what I look for. I want those slightly flattened, ugly, green skinned thundereggs that take some work to get loose from the hard, unaltered perlite floor. These eggs are easy to find as most people dig for the easy eggs in the soft clay in the upper layers and leave the hard to remove, ugly green eggs under their feet alone. These green skinned eggs are very interesting. Many are full of moss with red or blue agate backgrounds.

I dug here in late June of 2014, and the following pictures are thundereggs from that trip that I had cut (not polished) at Richardsons Ranch. The first picture is a nice triple showing moss and pretty red agate. The second picture is mossy blue agate. The third picture shows how full of agate the green skinned eggs are. This interesting agate comes only in the green skinned thundereggs, so I urge you to do some work and chisel up a few from the floor of the red bed.