Rock Hunting for Ellensburg Blue Agates in Kittitas County

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, $5). 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.

An abandoned barn in a grassy field in the Ellensburg countryside.
An abandoned barn in the Ellensburg countryside. Photo © Mark Engelbrecht, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

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.

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.

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