Rock Hunting for Ellensburg Blue Agates in Kittitas County

Ellensburg Blue Agate. Photo courtesy of Central Washington University.

Rockhounds know that Kittitas County is the only place on earth you’ll find the Ellensburg Blue agate. Try your luck at the Rock N Tomahawk Ranch (2590 Upper Green Canyon Rd., 509/962-2403). The owners here will give you a brief orientation about finding Ellensburg blue and then set you loose on their 160-acre spread to see what you can find. Hunt for free at Dry Creek on Highway 97, or along Horse Canyon Road. Just remember that these lands allow surface hunting only. Also, for your safety, don’t cross on to private property, and whatever you do, don’t anger the grazing cows.

About the Ellensburg Blue Agate

Formed millennia ago and deposited in the glacier till surrounding the Ellensburg mountainsides, the rare and beautiful Ellensburg Blue Agate has captivated local people for only a blink of an eye compared to the length of its existence.

Also known simply as E-blue, this precious gem comes in a range of colors from sky blue to a deep purplish color, though prized above all is a vibrant cornflower blue. According to local legend, Native American tribes valued these blue stones for their beauty, so much so that only tribal chiefs were allowed to wear them.

Ellensburg Blue Agate on display at the Kittitas County Historical Museum. A wonderful 6-pound 10-ounce “baby” of a blue, which came to the museum in the early 1980s. This is just one of over 50 samples of Ellensburg Blue Agate owned by the Museum. Photograph Courtesy of the Kittitas County Historical Museum.

For several decades tourists came up to Ellensburg just to root around the soil for E-blue. The famed New York jeweler Tiffany & Co. even used the gem in some of its jewelry. By 1940 or so the most productive agate beds were depleted, making finds rare. Most of the existing beds are on private land, and even those who do get a chance to scour them consider a single small find pretty good for a whole day’s work. All things considered, your time is probably best spent scouring local jewelry stores who sell raw, polished, and set stones at a wide price range.

Learn more about the Ellensburg Blue and how these unique agates are formed in this video interview of former Central Washington University geology professor Paul Hoskin.

Ericka Chickowski

About the Author

When Ericka Chickowski was a kid, her parents told her she had too many recreational interests. Little did they know these would serve her well in her career as a freelance writer. Over the better half of a decade, she has covered everything from river rafting to llama trekking. Ericka’s travel stories have appeared in publications such as The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Alaska Airlines Magazine, and Midwest Airlines Magazine. She is also a respected technology journalist who has garnered awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for column, feature, and humor writing.

Ericka grew up under the shade of Washington’s evergreens. She learned to appreciate the state’s diverse landscape from the backseat of a minivan during family road trips. Once she learned to drive herself, her wanderlust and love for the outdoors sent her on a lifelong quest to explore the nooks and crannies of the state, from the windswept plateaus of dry Eastern Washington to the mossy rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula. In spite of her appreciation for nature, she still thinks one of the prettiest views of Mt. Rainier is from Red Square at the Seattle campus of University of Washington, her alma mater.

Though Ericka settled down several years ago in a San Diego beach cottage with her husband, Paul, and her lovable mutt, Sandy, she regularly visits the trails, museums and restaurants of her home state. In fact, during the course of her research for this book she logged more than 2,000 miles along Washington’s highways and byways. Her quest to find the coolest roadside eateries, the funkiest museums, and the grandest vistas keeps her coming back time and again.

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