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Lake Superior Agates – Rockhounding in Minnesota

Minnesota is home to an abundance of Lake Superior Agates

Minnesota is home to some of the greatest agates around, particularly the Lake Superior variety. These iron stained, banded stones make beautiful jewelry and specimens, and they’re highly sought after to this day. There are also other types of agate spread throughout the state, making it a great destination for traveling collectors and amateur prospectors.

Lake Superior Agates


Lake Superior Agates


Lake Superior agates are identified by their red, orange, and yellow coloration. They come in deep hues that are immediately appealing to the eye, looking awesome as both cut stones and simple slabs or sliced geodes in a collector’s cabinet.

If you decide to walk the shores of the lake while on the hunt, your best bet is to keep your eye open for a glossy, almost waxy surface texture that’s the dead giveaway of an agate nodule. The bands aren’t always visible, whether they’re hidden in remaining matrix or just buried in the sand, and this texture is the best indicator that you’ve found yourself an agate.

Not all of the agates will even have the bands which are so commonly associated with the stone. Some will be almost pure chalcedony of one color or another, and others will bear differing patterns that can make it hard to determine just what you’ve found.

They’re all beautiful after a little bit of proper working, however.


Where to Hunt for Lake Superior Agates


Beaches of Lake Superior

Some experts claim that they don’t even bother with the lake’s shores anymore. The truth is, a ton of people have picked for them over the years and except for after a large storm there might just not be much to find.

Don’t let it dissuade you, but don’t expect to find the mother of all cabinet specimens just lying there either.

The gems have been dropped all over the region by glacial movements, and quite often they’ll be found a long way from their volcanic origins by those who are inclined to take a look.

Gravel Pits

If you’re not content with the beaches of Lake Superior, you should look into gravel pits near the area. These are almost always privately owned, but if you ask for permission you might be able to gain access to them. Defunct gravel pits, rather than current ones, are your best bet. There’s a lot to be found there.

The hunt doesn’t end there, however.

Rural roads are often paved with gravel, and mixed in among this can be a large number of agates depending on where the road’s makings originated. Picking along the sides of the road has worked for many people, as long as you have a sharp eye for the stones you’ll be in good hands.

Field Hunts

Another source which isn’t explored all that often are agricultural fields. Look for rocky outcroppings when the fields lie fallow and take a look just after they’ve been tilled to maximize your chances of finding the stones.

Agate from Minnesota


Geology Associated with Agates


Really, rocky areas of any type in the state offer quite a bit of agate findings as long as you’re careful. Bone up on your knowledge of more drab stones, the main things you’ll be looking for are any form of quartzite or basalt.

The agate nodules are frequently formed within basalt, this igneous stone contains a treasure trove of silica based gemstones in most regions. Being able to recognize it is a good thing no matter where you’re hunting, but if you make sure you’re on it in Minnesota you might just be able to dig up some of that famous Lake Superior Agate.

Quartz bearing stones, on the other hand, are made of the same base elements as the agates themselves and also have a good chance of bearing some of the stones. It crumbles more easily than basalt as well, and digging through the leftovers of erosion is a fantastic way to find some truly great specimens.

The key, of course, is to look anywhere and everywhere there might be stones. While the stones are most commonly associated with Lake Superior, they can be found across the region if you’ve got some patience and a careful eye.

Most experts say you can safely ignore piles which consist largely of granite and limestone. Their part in geological history is quite different from that of the red banded stones you’re likely to be seeking.

Practice will make perfect in this respect, but if you’ve been hunting for agates in other parts of the nation you already know what to look for to make sure that you come home with something in the bag.

Also Read: Rockhounding Tools – Gear that All Mineral Collectors Should Have




Lake Superior agates are widely renowned, and if you take a careful look anywhere in Minnesota that there’s rocks, you might just have a chance of collecting a specimen along with the new addition to your story. Give it a shot, and you definitely won’t be disappointed with the end result.

Next: Minnesota Gold Prospecting Locations

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