Central Oregon Tourism: Glass / Obsidian Buttes

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Glass / Obsidian Buttes

Located in Central Oregon’s high desert about 70 miles east of Bend are the Glass Buttes, known for the abundance and variety of obsidian that can be found there.

  • Located just 70 miles east of Bend off Highway 20.
  • Visit a fascinating geological area formed nearly 5 million years ago.
  • Avid rockhounders visit the Glass Buttes to collect beautiful pieces of obsidian in a variety of colors.
  • Glass Butte is one of several volcanic domes in Central Oregon.

Overview

The fascinating geological area known as Glass Buttes, Oregon, is located about 70 miles east of Bend in Lake County. Rockhounders from all over come to the area to collect beautiful pieces of obsidian for which Glass Buttes is known. Formed nearly 5 million years ago, Glass Butte has an elevation of 6,385 feet and is one of several volcanic domes in this part of Central Oregon. Little Glass Butte is nearby by at 6,152 feet. Like most of Oregon’s high desert, the Glass Buttes area is covered with a variety of grasses, pale green sagebrush, and dark green juniper trees.

Location and Information

The Glass Buttes, OR, are located about 70 miles east of Bend via Hwy 20. Three dirt roads going south from the highway provide access to the area, but the road furthest west is the one most accessible by car.

Contact Information

Bureau of Land Management, Prineville Office, 3050 N.E. 3rd Street, Prineville, OR 97754. Phone: 541-416-6700. For more information, visit this website

Activities

  • Rockhounding – Rockhounding is the main activity at the Glass Buttes. There are many different types of gem quality obsidian in the area. Some pieces are on the ground, while others can be found by digging. In addition to classic black obsidian, the area offers many others including mahogany, silver sheen, gold sheen, rainbow, and midnight lace.

    A BLM permit may be required, depending on the amount of rocks collected, how it is collected, where or when you collect it, and whether the material will be used commercially. You can contact the BLM for more details on permits.

Fun Facts

  • Glass Butte is one of the largest obsidian outcroppings in the world.
  • Obsidian, which is comprised of a combination of silicon dioxide and magnesium or iron, is formed when lava cools very quickly. The rapid cooling prevents crystals from forming. The color varies depending on how much of each element the piece contains.
  • Most obsidian is less than 20 million years old, which is young compared to most rocks that are part of the Earth’s crust.
  • Obsidian was very valuable to the Native Americans, due to its sharpness. They used it to make arrowheads and other tools.

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