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Treasures in the sand at the Oregon Coast

KGW's Grant McOmie goes on a treasure hunt at the Oregon coast, joining beachcombers to seek out fossils and agates washed up by the tides.

NEWPORT, Oregon — Oregon’s winter months offer a roller coast ride of sorts in the great outdoors, when wind and rain are often followed by stunning sunny days. We travelled to the rugged edge of Oregon discovered that the grey clouds disappear when you go hunting for Treasure in the Sand.

As the wintertime surf floods and then ebbs along the Oregon coast, beachcombers wander about and seek secrets from the tides.

K. Myers insists that the best beach adventures begin down the long staircase at the Moolack Shores Motel, where it doesn't take long and you don't go far to reach buried treasures.

Credit: KGW

"Most newcomers usually go down by the waterline because it's freshly agitated and they can find stuff that's fresh, but they don't realize that there's stuff up here too," she said.

That "stuff" includes opaque white agates and raspberry red jaspers, plus clam fossils that date back millions of years. Myers relishes seeking them out.

The fossils are fun, but it's the rocks that get the twice-over with Myers' handy gem tool. It has a scoop on the end to make the searching easy.

"Ah, there's an agate right under that rock," Myers noted as she pried loose a lovely stone.

Seeking out the agates

Agates are little rocky nuggets of silica that formed inside ancient rocks or shells millions of years ago. As the outer layer wears away, the agate remains. I was surprised to learn that shoreline agates and jasper don't come from the sea, but originate high in the watershed.

"They actually wash down the rivers into the ocean where they are tumbled about and then are deposited up on the beach," Myers explained.

Agates come in varied colors ranging from orange to red or pink to lavender or even black.

In less than an hour, we each located a handful of the gorgeous stones – they were of varied colors and sizes, and while the agates and jaspers are certainly easy on the eyes, I wondered aloud – was the best yet to come?

"Oh yes," Myers replied. "They'll polish up well to become really nice collectible pieces."

Credit: KGW

Myers has been the manager and co-owner of Facets Gem & Mineral Gallery in Newport since 1987. The small gem shop is located just off the U.S. Highway 101 and showcases the stunning examples of what you might uncover by polishing your agate treasures.

"The polishing techniques enhance the stones, make them smooth and finish them out," she said. "Usually, nature has done a good job of rounding off the hard edges of the agates but polishing brings a high luster to them – plus, you can make jewelry or whatever you want with each one."

Myers knows much about where and when to go rock hounding along the coast. She's even written a couple of popular booklets (Agates of the Oregon Coast) on Oregon's fascinating geology that will set you on the right track to your own adventures.

"It's relaxing, it's fun and I enjoy doing it. Ever since first grade 'show and tell' I've been interested and have never lost that zest for it," she said. "It's always exciting to find a new treasure and we're trying to help everyone enjoy all that Oregon has to offer."

Credit: KGW

More adventures

Be sure to watch the weekly half hour program of Grant’s Getaways. The show airs each Saturday and Sunday at 4pm on KGW.

For something different, you can follow my Oregon adventures via the Grant’s Getaways Podcast. Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind-the-scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.

You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:

The book collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age. You can reach me: Gmcomie@kgw.com

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