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Minnesota might not have the same diversity of gems, minerals, and rocks as Oklahoma; however, it is a delicate state for rockhounding enthusiasts since it contains some beautiful things.
Minnesota is known for its agates, predominantly found in the Lake Superior region or Moose Lake; however, you can also find geodes, gold, fossils, amethyst, yooperlites, and much more sedimentary igneous and metamorphic rocks. The most famous gravel pits are the Hatchery Pit, Soo Line Pit, and the Airport Pit.
Let’s see which are the best rockhounding locations in Minnesota and what you can find!
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Best Places to Rock Hunt in Minnesota
Since Minnesota is famous for its agates, we will present to you some of the best places where you can find them and include some other locations where you can find different gems, rocks, and minerals. Generally, the best places to search for these things are located in the northern parts of Minnesota. Let’s dig in!
In Cook County, you can find some particularly beautiful types of agates in the Lake Superior region, named after this area – Lake Superior Agates. They come in various colors such as yellow, red, or orange.
You can find these beautiful specimens during storms on the beaches; however, you should definitely look for them in gravel pits or rocky outcroppings.
Many people have collected these beautiful agates over the years, and thus, you will have more chances of finding them during storms when they wash up ashore.
Any beach or location with exposed rock gravel is an excellent place to search for agates. Some great beaches to find agates in Minnesota include Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage.
The Lake Superior Agates are the state’s national gemstone, so you should definitely look for it in Cook County. Here you can also find thomsonite, jasper, amethyst, and chalcedony. The beaches located on the north shore of Lake Superior are the best for gem hunting.
Plenty of gravel pits are spread throughout Carlton, and in many of them, you need a permit in order to pick up agates. You can find more information about how to get a permit here.
The most famous gravel pits where you can go gem hunting with a permit are the Hatchery Pit, Soo Line Pit, and the Airport Pit. In Carlton County, you can also find amethyst, fossils, quartz, and other rare stones, and even yooperlites, particularly in gravel pits.
If you find yourself in Carlton, you should definitely visit the Jay Cooke State Park. Here, you can gaze upon the Precambrian Thomson Formation, which formed around two billion years ago.
Another popular place is the Moose Lake State Park, where you can find agates of around 1.1 billion years old, being among the oldest specimens in the world.
Cloquet city in Carlton County hosts an amazing place for enthusiasts, namely the Get Picking area. Here you can find Lake Superior Agates, quartz, jasper, fossils, and even a variety of other cool rocks.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
What Gemstones are Found in Minnesota?
Minnesota may not have a great diversity when it comes to gemstones; however, you can find both agates and amethyst in this state. Agates are particularly unique since the ones that have formed here are the oldest in the world.
They formed billions of years ago from volcanic eruptions and ended up in river basins, gravel pits, and gravel dumps. They also come in different types.
Lake Superior Agates
Lake Superior agates are only found in Minnesota. They come in different colors, such as yellow, red, orange, since they have rich iron content. Some specimens can weigh up to twenty pounds, but generally, they are smaller.
Different types of Lake Superior agates can be found in Minnesota, such as the fortification agate, which is the most common, having unique patterns of sharp bands that are connected with one another.
The rarest and most precious is the eye agate that has rounded bands on its surface, similar to an eye. Other varieties include the peeled agates, water agates, or the seemed agates.
You can find these agates in Minnesota on the north shore beaches of Lake Superior, in gravel pits, in Cook County, or near the Moose Lake city in Carlton County.
Generally, these specimens are found in the northern and western regions of Minnesota. Get Picking, in Carlton County, is also a great place to find agates.
When it comes to finding amethyst in Minnesota, it usually resides where agates are also seen. Search in places such as gravel pits, the Gunflint Trail region, in particular, is known for its amethyst specimens. Another area that may host amethyst is Get Picking in Carlton County.
TIP: Minnesota is full of lakes and rivers. These places are suitable for rockhounding. Check out the most common rocks and minerals you can find in rivers in the article below:
What Minerals are Found in Minnesota?
Plenty of minerals can be found in Minnesota due to its ancient and active volcanic activity. Minerals such as thomsonite arose from these events; however, you can also find jasper, quartz, and gold in Minnesota as well.
Many places require you to have a permit to enter and explore areas that might have these minerals.
When it comes to thomsonite, it can be found in Minnesota in quite a few places. Among the most outstanding varieties, in color, exist here, and they can be found among the north shore, on the beaches around Tofte, or the Cook-Lake County line.
Thomsonite is a form of zeolite. They formed around the same time as the famous Lake Superior agates due to volcanic activity, hence the reason why they are often found in the same places as agates. They come in colors such as white, light yellow, beige, pink, light brown, light grey, or even light orange.
Among the most beautiful specimens can be found at Thomsonite Beach, which is on the shores of Lake Superior in Cook County.
A relatively unique type of jasper can be found in Minnesota, namely the Marry Ellen Jasper. It was named as such since it was discovered in the Marry Ellen Iron Mine in St. Louis County, the Mesabi Range, more than a hundred years ago.
At almost 2 billion years old, this type of jasper comes in a variety of colors, such as pink, green, red, to white swirls of Precambrian fossil algae, namely the Stromatolites.
Quartz minerals are plentiful in Minnesota, and other famous specimens such as agates, amethyst, or thomsonite are made from them.
You can find quartz in Minnesota in places such as Gunflint Trail, the north shore of Lake Superior, the Zumbro River, east of Grand Marais, near Biwabik, the area around Ironton, and the other Cuyuna Iron Range localities.
TIP: Ore and mineral are two quite widespread terms. But many people do not know how to distinguish these two terms correctly. Find out the main differences between ore and minerals in the article below:
Where to Find Cool Rocks in Minnesota?
There are plenty of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks to be found in Minnesota. Among the most famous, are the yooperlites, binghamite, or geodes. Here is where you can find them!
Among the rarest variety of quartz, the binghamite, also dubbed as a type of agate stone, is present in Minnesota. It is made out of hematite, goethite, and they are found in places where iron is predominant.
They come in different colors, such as gold, black, red, yellow, and some are even multicolored. You can find binghamite in the Cuyuna Iron Range, near Crow Wing County, Minnesota. Currently, it is the only known location in Minnesota where binghamite is found.
Yooperlites are beautiful, and they have been found in Minnesota in various places. You can find yooperlites in Minnesota in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and even in areas around Whitefish Point to Grand Marais.
They can also be found in gravel pits. Some have found them on Lake Michigan near the Chicago area or in the Point Betsie Area.
TIP: We consider binghamite and yooperlites to be cool rocks. Do you know what other rocks are considered cool rocks? Check out other cool rocks and where you can find them in the article below:
Where Can You Find Fossils in Minnesota?
Fossils are quite common in Minnesota, being present across the state. Many marine fossils like corals and other fish, as old as 380 million years, are usually found in the state’s north-central region.
A diversity of fossils is present here, from oysters, snails to shark teeth and clams, all of which date back to the Cretaceous Period.
At the Precambrian iron formation, which is located in the northeastern part of Minnesota, you can also find two million-year-old algae. When it comes to southeastern Minnesota, you can find cephalopods and trilobite fossils that date back to the Ordovician era.
Arrowheads can be found along the Minnesota River, where old Indian trails used to be. Plenty of rivers in Minnesota are great for finding arrowheads, especially the ones that shrank over time.
Lakes, rivers, creeks, all are good places where you might stumble upon arrowheads, as Indians would hunt animals as they approached the waters.
Shark teeth are usually found in sedimentary rocks. Exposed river beds in Minnesota are usually great places to find them. Near Rochester, or the St. Paul area, are also some great locations.
The Ellis County, or the iron ore areas in Hibbing and Keewatin areas, along with the granite mines in the Bellingham area, are also excellent places to find shark teeth.
TIP: Fossils can be often found in sedimentary rocks. Do you know why? The answer lies in how the different types of rocks are formed. Find out more in the article below:
Where to Find Gold in Minnesota?
When it comes to gold in Minnesota, around six regions are constantly explored, namely the Bigfork, Cook County, International Falls, Linden Grove, Vermillion, and Virginia Horn. Deposits of gold are strongly believed to exist in these regions.
Near Oronoco, at the Zumbro River, placer gold finds had been reported decades ago. Around Lake Vermilion, similar reports have been made; however, the town of Winston City was founded as gold was found in ore samples, but alas, Minnesota is not a good place to find gold.
If you do wish to try your luck, then the areas around Soudan, Trout Lake, Ely, and Lake Vermilion in the northern parts of the state are your best bet.
FAQ about Rockhounding in Minnesota
Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in Minnesota? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
The official state gemstone of Minnesota is the Lake Superior agate. It was officially designated as such in 1969. Minnesota’s Lake Superior agates stand up from other varieties since they are among the oldest agates in the world.
They are noted due to their orange, yellow, and red coloring, which sometimes includes white or grey parts. They formed more than one billion years ago due to volcanic activity, and they come in various shapes and sizes, with some of them weighing even twenty pounds.
Minnesota is noted for its Lake Superior agate gemstones; however, it doesn’t have an officially designated state mineral. However, minerals such as thomsonite, jasper, quartz, or gold can be found throughout the state.
Despite having relatively rich deposits of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, Minnosate does not have an officially designated state rock. Some cool rocks you can find in Minnesota though, include specimens such as binghamite, yooperlites, and even geodes.
Minnesota has various types of agates, with the Lake Superior agates being its official state gemstone. Apart from these unique agates, you can also find paradise beach agates, cold water agates, thunder egg agates, eye agates, peeled agates, or seemed agates. The rarest and most precious agates you can find in Minnesota is the eye agate.
Rock collecting is usually not allowed in state parks since they preserve natural resources. Near parks, however, there are some cases in which you are allowed to collect. If you want to go fossil hunting, some tours are available with reservation through the Hill Annex State Park.
Agate hunting is also available in a couple of gravel pits near Moose Lake State Park; however, you need permission first. This is also the case if you want to collect items on private lands. Obtain the consent of the owners first.
Minnesota has various state parks which are worth visiting. The Hill Annex Mine State Park in Calumet is filled with fossilized marine remains. The Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Soudan is the oldest and deepest iron ore mine in Minnesota, where volcanic rocks formed around 2.7 billion years ago.
The Banning State Park in Sandstone has plenty of old sandstone quarries, while the Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton County has a formation that dates back to two billion years ago. If you want to gaze upon the oldest agates in the world, then the Mooe Lake State Park is the place to go. The effects of 11,000 years old glaciers can be witnessed in the Interstate State Park in Taylor’s Falls.
BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in Minnesota!
TIP: And it’s rockhounding time now! Do you know what tools you need for rockhounding? Check out the list of all needed tools and equipment for rockhounding in the article below: