You Will Lose Track of Time Immersed in Oregon’s World-Class Museum and Its Exquisite Rock Collection

rice museum oregon

Confession time. I’ve driven past signs for this place more times than I can count, but never really knew what was hiding under my nose the whole time. The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals is not some dinky, truck-stop attraction—this is a legit, world-class museum (a Smithsonian Affiliate since 2015) that’s only a 25 minute drive from downtown Portland!

interior of museum
Interior, John Warren Google Local

The museum, which opened in 1997, is inside a sprawling mid-century ranch-style house that’s been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in Oregon.

The location was the previous home of Richard and Helen Rice whom the museum is named after. Incidentally, the year the museum opened was the same year both Richard and Helen passed away, a fitting transition to usher in their legacy and ensure their extensive collection lives on for countless generations to come. 

petrified wood
Petrified Wood display, Margaret Cameron Google Local

Both the main floor and the basement of the museum are filled with all things rocks, minerals, fossils, gems, and earth science related. The newest exhibit is called “Destination Moon” which chronicles and explores the country’s road to the moon landing in 1969. The main gallery houses over 4,000 individual specimens that are replenished regularly from the museum’s working collection of over 20,000 artifacts. Here you’ll find a petrified wood collection, a fossil gallery, and the Northwest Gallery of thundereggs (Oregon’s state rock) which features the largest “opal-filled” thunderegg in the world. There’s also the incredibly cool Rainbow Gallery with rocks and minerals that glow when exposed to ultraviolet light! 

glowing rocks!
fluorescent rocks exhibit, Rice Museum website

When you go, time your visit to catch a mini-tour that lasts about 15 minutes and starts at 11:30am and 3:00pm each day. You can also tour the museum on your own, reading about the displays and asking the knowledgeable staff and docents about the exhibits. If you have a larger group you can pre book a private tour for up to 54 people!

Alma Rose
The Alma Rose rhodochrosite, Greg Larsen Google Local

They also offer lots of other opportunities within the community for school trips, local rock clubs, even a faceting class (ie. cutting a gemstone). Or, come out to a Mystery Mineral Day where staff members can help you identify any rocks you’ve collected and are curious about.

family fun
Family Fun, Rice Museum Google Local

The setting outside of the museum is just as beautiful as what’s inside. Nestled on 23 wooded acres, you’ll be surrounded by large fir trees where you can explore trails and the gorgeous landscaping, wildflowers and wildlife around you. Although the museum doesn’t sell any food on its grounds, you can bring a picnic to enjoy with your family on the lawn or at an outdoor table while the kids dig through rock piles. There are also several local fruit and produce stands nearby to grab a healthy snack. 

bear skull
cave bear skull, Michael Fisher Google Local

Admission is $18 for adults, which can feel a bit steep, but kids five and under are free and kids age six through college only cost $10. You can also get into the museum for a discounted rate of $3 if you show an EBT card along with your ID, and up to four people can take advantage of this deal as part of the Museum for All program.

Photo courtesy of the Washington County Visitors Association.

Members are always free which can cost as little as $30 a year, so if you’re in the area and think you’d come at least two times a year, this is the way to go!

beautiful collection
beautiful collection, Bruce Baumann Google Local

This museum is definitely worth the trip, and you won’t find a larger collection like this in the entire Pacific Northwest. You won’t believe that a museum of this caliber is right here in Oregon!

crystals
crystals, Carolyn Miye Sheppard Google Local

Hours:

  • Winter (Dec-Mar): Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00am - 4:00pm
  • Summer (Apr-Nov): Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm

Address: 26385 NW Groveland Dr, Hillsboro

Phone: (503) 647-2418

Website: ricenorthwestmuseum.org

mindat.org

The Rice Northwest Museum of Rock and Minerals stands as a shining example among the numerous local businesses fostering positive change in Oregon. If you’ve got a favorite spot or business in mind, don’t hesitate to nominate them—they might just be highlighted in an upcoming feature for That Oregon Life. Be sure to stay connected with That Oregon Life on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on the most remarkable destinations, attractions, and happenings in the Beaver State.