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Rice Northwest Museum's Rock Star Status

Dig into a deep trove of meteorites, gemstones, and crowns of green malachite and gypsum near Portland.

man admires specimens at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, image
Photo credit
Photo: Shawn Linehan
Photo caption
Rock hounds can peruse some 4,000 specimens at the museum.

At the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, all that glitters is not just gold—it's chilly meteorites, glinting gemstones, and otherworldly crowns of green malachite and milky gypsum. Some 4,000 specimens are on show.

Located in Hillsboro, Ore., the museum occupies the former home of Richard and Helen Rice, rock hounds who designed the sandstone-clad structure to highlight their immense collection. It's now a repository for multiple caches of mineral and rock treasures, boasting everything from an 88-pound raw emerald to fossilized dinosaur eggs.

A one-ton log of petrified white oak anchors the Murphy Gallery, where polished slices of petrified wood look like scalloped-edge panes of alabaster or marbled glass. Seemingly humdrum rocks in the darkened Rainbow Gallery reveal their Day-Glo colors when black lights power on. The world's largest known opal-filled thunder egg, Oregon's state rock, greets visitors at the entrance to the Northwest Mineral Gallery. The museum's star attraction, however, is the Alma Rose, a slab of black-and-white-flecked granite with five fist-size crystals of crimson rhodochrosite tumbling out like a cubist's study in red.

In warm weather the museum expands onto the pine-fringed grounds for its Summer Festival (Aug. 6–7 this year). The event includes live music and the chance to hop aboard the Flintstone Mobile for a photo op with another couple known for their love of rocks: Fred and Wilma.

 

This article was first published in July 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.