Reasons Not To Buy Gem Trails of Oregon & The GPS Guide to Western Gem Trails

Well I am finally fed up with hearing complaints about the book Gem Trails of Oregon by James Mitchell. So I have to stop recommending it to anyone. When I wrote this I had just got back from a week long trip to central Oregon for - you guessed it - rockhounding. I heard three people complain about the inaccuracies and outdated information in Gem Trails, and I prompted none of them. So I am listing all the errors I know of in the 1998 edition (why would anyone revise a book and not even bother to call the phone numbers they list to see if they are still connected? Sheesh!) here. Most of these errors are corrected on my Rock Dig Locations pages and topo maps.  Probably the worst thing about the book is that you will waste massive amounts of time at most sites simply because he didn't bother to ASK anybody where the good stuff was. Only the smaller sites and those with big bold signs pointing to the good stuff have adequate directions to the good pits. On all the rest (i.e. McDermitt, Glass Buttes) he found the dug out places and missed the ones where you could fill a bucket with great rock in a half hour.

Many of the same comments apply to The GPS Guide to Western Gem Trails, by David A. Kelty. After buying this worthless book, I compared some of his GPOS waypoints to my own; the results are below. In short, if you ain't been there, don't put a point on a map and say "there it is" and "sites were checked for mineral availability". Yeah right. Just a few of the more egregious errors I found are listed below; there are many more which I won't go into but suffice it to say that your chances are less than 50% of finding the site using that book, for sites I know of in OR/WA/ID.

Gem Trails of Oregon

Keenig Creek
There is no "Keenig Creek" sign on highway 6!
Oregon Coast
Clear Creek
It is against the law to dig in the stream, or in any salmon bearing stream in the state, for that matter. The entire area is posted and patrolled by Stimpson Lumber. They rarely give permits to dig and only then to rock clubs. The Mt. Hood club hasn't gotten a permit for at least 4 years...
Vernonia Area
Quartzville Creek
Site C is a waste of time. Maybe there was something there 20 years ago but not anymore.
Green Peter Area
Calapooia River
Site A is a waste of time. There was never any Holley Blue agate in the Calapooia in this stretch and damn little to no wood .
Calapooia River
Richardson's Ranch
There never were opal, moss agate, polka-dot, or rainbow agate beds on the ranch. There are moss agate and opal thundereggs. Don't go expecting to pick rock up off the ground. It's simply not true. Mitchell must have been talking to a tall tale teller that day. He sure didn't bother to ask the RICHARDSONS.
Ashwood Area
Nobody at the Ashwood PO knows anything. Call Darrell Friend - he's listed in the 541 area code. Thorton (sic) ranch was sold and closed to collectors in the mid-90s. Swanson hasn't allowed collectors since before the first edition was published. Most of the materials listed were never there or were dug out in the 70s. There is no rock shop in Ashwood.
Ashwood Area
Eagle Peak
It's Eagle Rock not Eagle Peak. There is nothing in the quarry at the top that can be dug without dynamite and a trackhoe. Trust me I've been there 3 times.
Post-Paulina Area
Maury Mountain
The Prineville Chamber of Commerce dropped all their claims before the first edition was published. Quant's and Elkins' Rock Shops had many of these claims before the C of C and have the best information on collecting them (besides ME).
Post-Paulina Area
Isami Tsubota is well over 90 and almost impossible to get on the phone. He never leaves Biggs so go there and ask at the beater motel past the gas station on the right for him. His house is next door; it's the one with 10 tons of Biggs in the backyard. There is no camping at the motel, and there never was any blue agate there.
Biggs Area
Graveyard Point Directions are wrong. There are NO bridges across the canal. This is the worst area to collect at Graveyard.
Owyhee Mountains
97 Pictures The picture labeled Succor Creek picture jasper is of Owyhee picture jasper which is held under private claim. Did you jump Dale's claim Mitchell?  
Snowflake obsidian from Oregon? What are you taking Mitchell?

Oregon Jade isn't jasper - it's serpentinite

Lassen Creek Where do I start? The directions are impossible to follow, and take the longest possible route anyway. Most of the "sites" are a waste of time or simply do not exist.
Lakeview Area
Davis Creek Same as Lassen Creek. These two sites and Crane Creek were my most frustrating experiences ever with this book. I threw away the old edition of the book somewhere around Fender Flat. If you find it, it's yours!
Lakeview Area
Owyhee Five minutes at the rock shop in Nyssa could have gotten him the real name of this site - Haystack Rock
Negro & Haystack Rocks
Succor Creek North Directions stink. These are the worst collecting sites in the area, IMHO.
Owyhee Mountains
Crane Creek Directions are flat out wrong. Don't even try getting there with this map. He was definitely more than a little disoriented that day. The picture is of RICHARDSON RANCH EGGS. Duh.
Lakeview Area

GPS Guide to Western Gem Trails


Site #






Agness Specimens

Off by 2.25 miles. Good luck!

CD V.2 (6/04)



Ashland Specimens ( Emigrant Lake )

Off by 2.23 miles. Good luck!

CD V.2 (6/04)



Buchanan Specimens-Site B

Off by 2.08 miles.

Buchanan map



Calapooia River sites

None of these waypoints is anywhere near any of the digs.

Calapooia River



Cape Blanco Fossil Specimens

Off by 1.09 miles.

CD V.2 (6/04)



Clear Creek Specimens

Both are well below the Stimpson permit area on private land – hope you have a bulletproof vest!




Eagle Rock Specimens-Site A

Off by a few HUNDRED miles. Hey can I have a hit off that?

Post-Paulina Hwy.



Eagle Rock Specimens-Site B

A mile from the nearest pits.

Post-Paulina Hwy.



Hampton Butte

2 miles into private land from the BLM area. Hope ya got a bulletproof vest!

Hampton Buttes



Lake Paulina Specimens

I wouldn't pick up rocks in a national monument – it’s against the law…

I don’t break the law!



McDermitt Opalite Mines

I think he means the Bretz Mine dumps, and the waypoint is 6.2 miles north in another drainage!




McDermitt Orange Agate

1.1 miles away from the pit on the wrong road.




McDermitt Wood Site D

38.5 miles east of the nearest wood area. Whoops!




McDonald Ranch

All stolen from my site. All off by ½ mile.




North Umpqua River Specimens

4.3 miles from the roadcut

CD V.2 (6/04)



Ochoco Agate Beds

Off by 1.13 miles. This one is even on the topo. Doh!

Ochoco Mtns.



Owyhee Specimens (Deer Butte )

Off by 2.46 miles. Wrong hill. Good luck!

Negro & Haystack Rocks map



Paulina Limb Casts (Fossil Ridge)

Stolen from my site. No limbs here anyway.

Paulina Limb Casts



Pony Creek Agate Beds (Chief Paulina Ranch)

Off by 2.09 miles. Wrong ranch.



116-119; 140, 166, 167

Quartzville Creek area

All bogus waypoints; get you nowhere near the actual digging areas. Two quarries guessed wrong, Boulder Creek wrong roadcut.

Green Peter



Rome Specimens

He got the wrong road! Laughably dumb error!

Snakeskin area map



Succor Creek area

Since he got these from guessing at maps, NONE are actual digging areas!




Swanson Ranch Agate Beds

Wrong place; closed for over 15 years now anyway

Not fixed; you can’t collect there



The Dalles Wood & Agate (Quarry)

Off by 1.89 miles; guessed wrong quarry!

The Dalles



Tillamook Fossil Specimens

Stolen from my site. Thanks for the acknowledgement. NOT.

It was already correct.



Crystal Mountain Specimens Area

Off by 1.94 miles. Good luck!

CD V.2 (6/04)

What? Still don't believe me? Well then believe these people:

From: "Kirby Harris" <>
Subject: Re: One year access

Hello Tim,

Don't know where that one went but what I actually wrote was that we would like to know where to send a check for the annual fee for online access to the digging sites that you speak about on your website.  We also wanted to thank you one hundred times for correcting some of the stupid directions etc in the Gem Trails book.  We have been so frustrated with that book we were ready to use it to start campfires!! I doubt that the writer has even been near some of those places he wrote about. Anyway, give us an address and any other info we need and we will send payment.  Looking forward to exploring the maps etc.

Thank you,
Kirby Harris


From: "Vickie" <>
To: <>
Subject: Rockin'

Hi Tim! I just found your WONDERFUL site today and ordered your CD.  I had to LOL when I read about your take on the Gem Trails of Ore. book.I'll second that emotion! That book just sucks! BIG time! Of all the books I have owned that one was the worse!
True story:
Years ago when we were rock pups and just starting out ,we bought that book and planned and mapped out a weeks long vacation from Portland to Central Ore, just to explore some sites from that book. With info from that book , I mapped out a detailed schedule etc. before we left home.
What a joke! We wasted more time , gas and money trying to chase down sites from that book. Time after time we hit dead-ends ,thanks to the "info" from that book. By the end of our trip we had REALLY built up quite a hate and resentment for it!  We both thought using it to start a campfire was too easy of a death for it after all it put us through! Sooo...Before we left Central Ore. we stopped and dug a 2-3 ' deep hole in a remote area and buried that sucker it could die slowly and rot back into the earth. We put a nice big rock headstone on the top of that "grave" and we said our final curses to it before we left. Good riddance! :)
When I saw your site this morning , I could see right away you were not full of BS...(how refreshing! )...and I wasn't on that site more then 10 minutes when I ordered your CD. That is so cool you did that! Ahhh! all info on one handy  CD! Nice! And being able to click onto Paypal was very and painless.Too easy.
Thanks for your time Tim...much appreciated!

Vickie Coghill


Subject: Rock Dig Locations CD

Hi...A CD---great idea!!! I also did the Gem trails of Oregon nightmare trip....what a waste of time. Drove for hours, actually days, to many of the sites in the Madras area. I planned my whole vacation around it! Boy was I disappointed! I would get so excited when we finally found the locations (which was no easy task) only to spend all day looking and looking and looking, leaving with only a few small pieces of left-overs. I bring more rock home from a trip to the beach!

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Tim Fisher

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