Rock Discoveries

Dendrite Butte: The Ultimate Destination for Rockhounding Enthusiasts

Rockhounding at Dendrite Butte, Oregon: A Comprehensive Guide

Oregon is a place of natural beauty, and one of the best ways to experience it is through rockhounding. If you are fascinated by petrified wood, agate, and chalcedony, then Dendrite Butte should be your next stop.

Located in Central Oregon, Dendrite Butte is one of the premier locations for rockhounds in the United States. Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your visit.

Limb Cast Collection Area

One of the most fascinating features of Dendrite Butte is the limb cast collection area. If you are looking for pink, blue, or green limb casts, then this is the place to be.

Limb casts are made when the organic material in a tree decays, and minerals like agate, chalcedony, and quartz replace the missing material. The result is a beautiful specimen that captures the shape and texture of the original tree.

Difficulty of Surface Hunting

If you are looking for specimens, surface hunting is the easiest way to find them. However, it can be a bit challenging at Dendrite Butte due to the age of the dig sites.

The younger sites have been thoroughly picked over, which means that you will need to dig deeper to find the good stuff. But don’t let that discourage you.

With a little bit of patience and perseverance, you can still find some amazing specimens.

BLM Recreational Gathering Site

Dendrite Butte is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recreational gathering site. What does this mean for you?

It means that you are allowed to collect a reasonable amount of rock and mineral material for personal use. The Central Oregon Rockhounding Map is an excellent resource that will show you where you can and cannot gather.

The map also outlines the 540-acre area and identifies areas that are off-limits due to ecological concerns. You will also find information on road access, which is critical when it comes to material acquisition.

How Limb Casts Are Made

Limb casts are made when volcanic ash and other debris bury a tree. Over time, the ash and debris solidify into rock, and as the organic material inside the tree decays, minerals like agate, chalcedony, and quartz replace the missing material.

The minerals grow in the shape of the tree’s branches and roots, creating a dendritic pattern that is both beautiful and unique. Eventually, the original material burns away, leaving behind a perfect replica of the original tree.

Different Types of Petrified Wood

Petrified wood comes in many different types, including agate, chalcedony, opal, and more. Agate is a banded chalcedony that comes in a wide range of colors.

Chalcedony is a type of cryptocrystalline quartz that is usually white, gray, or blue. Opal is amorphous silica that comes in a variety of colors and has a distinctive play of color.

At Dendrite Butte, you will find petrified wood of all types and colors.

Accommodations and Logistics

There are several things to consider when planning a trip to Dendrite Butte. First and foremost, you need to decide what you want to do.

If you are only interested in rockhounding, then camping on BLM land is a great option. However, if you want to do some wildlife observation or other activities, there are plenty of other options in the area.

Road Access and Recommendations

It’s essential to have the right vehicle when visiting Dendrite Butte. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended, as the roads can be rough in places.

If you plan to visit during the wet season, you should be prepared for muddy and slippery conditions. It’s also a good idea to check road conditions before you leave, as they can change quickly due to weather and other factors.

Location and Proximity to Major Cities

Dendrite Butte is located roughly 40 miles northeast of Prineville and about 85 miles east of Bend. If you are flying into the area, the closest major airport is in Salem, which is approximately 150 miles to the west.

Once you arrive, you will be able to drive to Dendrite Butte within a few hours. In conclusion, rockhounding at Dendrite Butte is an adventure that is not to be missed.

Whether you are looking for limb casts, agate, chalcedony, or other specimens, you are sure to find something amazing. Having the right equipment, knowing the rules, and planning ahead are critical to making the most of your trip.

With a little bit of preparation, you can have the rockhounding trip of a lifetime. Facts about Petrified Wood: An In-Depth Look

Petrified wood is a fascinating natural wonder that has captivated people for centuries.

It is the result of trees that have been buried by sediment and volcanic ash and been turned into stone over a long period. But there is more to petrified wood than just its beautiful appearance.

Below are some lesser-known facts about petrified wood that are sure to pique your interest.

Inability to Use as Firewood

Petrified wood may look like wood, but it no longer acts like wood. It has undergone a process known as permineralization, where minerals like silica fill in the open spaces of the wood’s cells and replace the organic material.

The result is a rock that has the appearance of wood. Because of this transformation, petrified wood cannot be used as firewood.

The stone is extremely hard, and it is much too difficult to light. Not to mention, burning petrified wood releases harmful chemicals into the air.

Giant Pieces of Petrified Wood

Petrified wood isn’t just limited to small branches and twigs scattered on the ground. In fact, complete petrified trees have been found in many parts of the world.

These trees were turned into stone over millions of years and can reach incredible sizes. Some are so large that they have been used for furniture and interior construction.

Imagine a coffee table made from a piece of petrified wood that was once a living, breathing tree.

Hardness of Petrified Wood

Petrified wood is incredibly hard. So hard, in fact, that it ranks high on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which measures a mineral’s ability to scratch another mineral.

The scale runs from 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond), and petrified wood falls between 6 and 7. This hardness is due to the high concentration of silica, which is the same mineral that makes up quartz.

The hardness of petrified wood is so intense that some collectors will use it to cut glass.

Rarity of Petrified Wood

While petrified wood can be found all over the world, not all specimens are created equal. The process of permineralization that turns wood into stone is a rare occurrence and requires specific geological conditions.

Because of this, the quality of petrified wood can vary significantly. Some specimens are highly prized by collectors, while others are less desirable.

Additionally, the grade of petrified wood can affect its value. Some types of petrified wood are rarer than others, which can make them more valuable.

Uses of Petrified Wood

In addition to its beauty, petrified wood has been used for many practical purposes throughout history. It has been used as building material, for decorative purposes, and even in medicine.

The ancient Greeks believed that petrified wood could cure stomach ailments, and it was also used as a remedy for snake bites. Today, petrified wood is primarily used for decorative purposes, as it makes excellent bookends, tabletops, and even jewelry.


Petrified wood has captivated humans for centuries, and it’s easy to see why. Its beauty, hardness, and rarity make it a sought-after specimen for collectors and enthusiasts alike.

While it may look like an ordinary piece of wood, it has undergone an incredible transformation that has turned it into stone over millions of years. The next time you come across a piece of petrified wood, take a moment to appreciate the natural wonder that it is.


In conclusion, learning about petrified wood can be a fascinating journey, from its transformation to stone and its properties that make it unique, to the various uses and different types found globally. Indeed, petrified wood is more than just an object of beauty; it tells a story of millions of years of natural history and offers a glimpse into nature’s power and beauty.


Q: Can I use petrified wood as firewood? A: No, petrified wood cannot be used as firewood because it is no longer wood but has turned into stone.

Q: How hard is petrified wood? A: Petrified wood is incredibly hard, ranking between 6 and 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale due to its high concentration of silica.

Q: Is petrified wood rare? A: While petrified wood can be found all over the world, its quality and grade can vary significantly, and some types are rarer than others.

Q: What are the uses of petrified wood? A: Petrified wood has practical uses in building material and medicine, but today it is primarily used for decorative purposes, such as bookends, tabletops, and jewelry.

Q: What is the process of turning wood into petrified wood? A: The process of turning wood into petrified wood is called permineralization, where minerals like silica replace the organic material over a long period.

Q: Where can I find petrified wood? A: Petrified wood can be found in many parts of the world that have specific geological conditions, such as the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona or in Madagascar.

Q: What makes petrified wood so beautiful? A: The beauty of petrified wood comes from its dendritic patterns, color variations, and the unique process that turns wood into stone.

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