Rockhounding in North Dakota is very rewarding due to the state’s high-quality specimens that can be found with relative ease. Though North Dakota isn’t as abundant in its versatility of rocks, minerals, and crystals as its neighboring states, it does shine in various fossils and high-quality minerals and rocks.
You can find gold, geodes, agates, arrowheads, dinosaur fossils, Jasper, selenite crystals, and the famous Terado petrified wood, among others. The best places to rockhound in North Dakota are the areas along its major rivers and tributaries, such as Yellowstone, Cannonball Rivers, or Missouri.
Let’s see exactly what you can find in North Dakota and which are the best places to rockhound in this state!
If you are interested in checking out the best rockhounding book about rockhounding in North Dakota you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).
Best Rockhounding Sites in North Dakota
The best rockhounding sites in North Dakota are Cannonball River, Missouri River, Souring River, McKenzie County, Little Missouri River, Tongue River, Sheyenne River, Turtle Mountain, Williams County, Mandan, Hettinger County, and Medora, among others.
Though North Dakota may not have prosperous regions where plenty of specimens can be found, the good part is that most of the state has areas where you can find something, especially near rivers, streams, and gravels. Let’s analyze some popular spots.
The Cannonball River is among the best spots to rockhound in North Dakota. The region of the river that spreads in Grant County is particularly rewarding for enthusiasts.
Some of the most exciting specimens you can find are agates, chalcedony, jasper gemstones, or even silicified wood.
A lot of regions near Hettinger County are great for enthusiasts to explore and try out their luck. For example, the gravels in Cedar Creek near Hettinger are abundant in agatized wood.
Along Thirty Mile Creek, you can find agates, selenite crystals, silicified wood, Jasper, and chalcedony in the north.
North Dakota is famous for its fossil reserves, and the Souris River is a great place to find them! The region between Denbigh and Velva is abundant in fossils, quartz gemstones, Jasper, agate, and chalcedony.
Mandan is among the biggest cities in North Dakota, located in Morton County. Here, you can explore the wash pits, and area gravels, and you may find the famous Teredo petrified wood. Apart from this, you can also find chert, silicified wood, chalcedony, and even agates.
Williams County is another excellent place to rockhound in North Dakota. You can explore the area’s streams and river gravels to find agates, Montana moss agates, or red and yellow jaspers.
Recommendation box: All tools and equipment you need for rockhounding and rock identification* (Amazon links):
1. Estwing Rock Hammer – Light, comfortable, and extremely durable hammer.
2. Estwing Geologist Pick – Classic and the most trusted paleo pick in the world.
3. Finder 12-Inch Chisels – Heavy-duty chisels set with hand protection.
4. Mini Handle Shovel – Great tool for digging deep in the dirt.
5 Ironclad Utility Work Gloves – Breathable but they also protect the areas requiring them most.
6. 3M Safety Glasses – Comfortable and efficient goggles for rockhounding.
7. Convoy 8+ UV Light – 365nm UV LED flashlight with a patented glass filter.
8. Wesley’s Jewelers Loupe – High magnification options (30X and 60X) with carrying case.
9. Mohs Hardness Kit – A specially designed kit for rockhounds
*All recommended products are personally tested and regularly used by experts from this website.
What Kind of Rocks Are in North Dakota
North Dakota is mainly dominated by sedimentary rock formations, abundant in fossils. Some of the rocks you can find here are agates, Montana Moss agates, flint, Knife River flint, concretions, chert, Teredo petrified wood, regular petrified wood, and possibly geodes.
|Agates||McKenzie County, Little Missouri River, Williams County|
|Petrified Wood||Mandan City, Sheyenne River, Lisbon|
|Flint||Crowley Quarry, Killdeer|
Finding geodes in North Dakota can be quite a challenge, as no geodes have yet been unearthed in this state. However, the possibility of geodes being present in this state is not absolutely zero.
Geodes are usually found in limestone-containing regions, deserts, or volcanic ash beds. If you don’t find geodes here, then the neighboring states of Montana and South Dakota are abundant in geodes.
Agates are found throughout the state of North Dakota, especially in rivers and streams. Some of the best places to find both regular agates and Montana moss agates are McKenzie County, Little Missouri River, or Williams County, among others.
In McKenzie County, the gravels of the major rivers and their tributaries are abundant in Montana moss agates or even regular ones.
When it comes to the Little Missouri River, the northwestern parts of Grassy Butte are where agates are commonly found.
In all the areas, streams, and river gravels in Williams County, both regular and Montana moss agates were unearthed.
If you want to find regular or the Teredo petrified wood in North Dakota, then your best chance is to go to Madan City, Sheyenne River, or Lisbon. Teredo petrified wood is a unique variety of petrified wood formed out of fossilized trees and tiny clams.
The gravel and wash pits of Madan City are filled with Teredo petrified wood. At the same time, the Sheyenne River is abundant in regular petrified wood. Lisbon is another excellent place to find Teredo petrified wood in North Dakota, especially in the town’s gravels.
TIP: Do you know how long does it take for rocks to form? The forming time is different for different rocks. Find out more in the article below:
How Long Do Rocks Form? Answers For ALL Types of Rocks
What Gemstones Are Found in North Dakota
The state of North Dakota isn’t mainly known for its gemstone variety. For example, the most common gemstones you can find in North Dakota are Jasper or quartz gemstones. However, both the Jasper and the quartz gemstones that you can find here are of the highest quality.
|Jasper||Souris River, Minot, Cannonball River|
|Quartz Gemstone||Sheyenne River, Turtle Mountain, Lisbon|
Both the Souris River and the Cannonball River are excellent places to find Jasper in North Dakota. You can also find it in the Little Missouri River, Minot, McKenzie County, Richardton, Bismarck, or Hettinger County.
When it comes to finding quartz gemstones in North Dakota, there are also plenty of options to choose from. You can find quartz crystals in the Sheyenne River, in the gravels of Ramsey, and in Pembina counties.
The area gravels and pits on Turtle Mountain are also abundant in quartz gemstones and the regional gravels of Lisbon Town.
TIP: Jasper and agate are natural chemical compounds that are debated in science. Check out the main differences between these two gemstones in the article below:
Jasper vs. Agate: Crucial Differences (Are They Same?)
What Minerals Are Found in North Dakota
Some minerals can be found in North Dakota. Still, like gemstones, they are relatively rare, with the most popular ones being gold, chalcedony, glauberite, halite, pyrite, or thenardite, among others. Though gold isn’t as abundant as in other states, you can still pan for it in the great rivers.
|Gold||Sheridan County, Ransom County, Bowman County|
|Chalcedony||Souris River, Richardton, Cannonball River|
Gold in North Dakota isn’t as popular as in South Dakota; however, some locations may be worth exploring. In Bowman County, small nuggets of flour gold were found on the North Fork of the Grand River, within the Badlands, or Deep Creek.
The cemented gravel on buttes and ridges above the Sheyenne River, and Red River, in the Sheridan County region also revealed gold.
Many believe the source to be the Black Hills of South Dakota. In the direction of Lisbon City, the northeast part of the Sheyenne River also revealed small gold deposits.
TIP: If you want to know more about gold prospecting in North Dakota, check out the complete guide in the article below:
Gold Prospecting in North Dakota: 4 Best Locations & Laws
What Crystals Are Found in North Dakota
North Dakota is relatively poor when it comes to gemstones and minerals, and this is also the case with crystals. However, high-quality specimens can be found in the state, which also stands true when it comes to crystals. You can discover selenite crystals or even calcite crystals.
|Selenite Crystals||Hettinger County, Thirty Mile Creek, Richardton|
|Calcite Crystals||Tongue River|
Some stunning selenite crystals can be obtained if you go to Hettinger County. There, head towards the northern area of Thirty Mile Creek. The broader southern area of Richardton is also a potentially fruitful place to find selenite crystals in North Dakota.
When it comes to calcite crystals, things become a little more difficult as there is only one place where they are abundant in North Dakota, namely, the Tongue River. In the southern limestone outcrops, you can find both high-quality calcite crystals and even some fossils.
TIP: Selenite is a variety of gypsum. It is an abundant mineral and is available on the market in good quality. Find out more about selenite’s value in the article below:
Selenite Value: Main Factors & Prices for Different Units
Public Fossil Hunting in North Dakota
North Dakota is famous for its variety of fossils, especially dinosaur fossils, as even the Tyrannosaurus Rex was unearthed here. However, not all areas are open for collecting, and you should always ask for permission first.
The Fox Hills Formation, and the Breien Member of the Hell Creek Formation, are excellent places to find cretaceous fossils in North Dakota. Various fossilized reptiles, fish, and even Triceratops or Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils may be situated between the Rocky Mountains.
Paleocene fossils, especially aquatic fossils or even dinosaur fossils such as those of Champosaurs, can be found in the Ludlow, Bullion Creek, Slope, and Sentinel Butte regions. This area is known as the North Dakota Everglades.
Fossils that date back to 50 million years ago, belonging to the Eocene or Oligocene period, can be found in the Chadron, Brule, and Arikaree Formations. Here, you can find fossils of more modern-day animals.
Quaternary fossils that date back to 1.6 million years ago that belong to the Ice Age can be found in the northernmost regions of the state.
You can find mammoths, giant bison, mastodons, ground sloths, and even little frogs, crustaceans, and smaller mammal fossils.
If you want to find plant fossils or other plant-based specimens, things are more accessible. Silicified wood, for example, can be found along the Missouri River in the gravel. Hettinger County and McKenzie County are also excellent places to find it.
Agatized wood is also common in North Dakota. You can find it in Richardton, the gravels of Cedar Creek in Hettinger County, or the Little Missouri River.
TIP: Selenite is a common crystal found in North Dakota. Unfortunately, you can find a lot of fake selenites for sale on the internet. Check out the main differences between real and fake selenite:
Real vs. Fake Selenite: Focus on These 5 Differences
FAQ About Rockhounding in North Dakota
Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in North Dakota? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
What Are the State Rocks of North Dakota?
North Dakota, unfortunately, doesn’t have an officially designated state rock, mineral, or even gemstone. This is due to its lack of diversity and abundance in rocks, gemstones, and minerals. It is unclear if North Dakota will ever have an officially designated state rock.
What is the State Fossil of North Dakota?
The official state fossil of North Dakota has been the Teredo petrified wood since 1967. This variety of petrified wood is unique. The fossilized wood contains boreholes of mollusks known as shipworms of the Teredo genus. The south-central regions of the state are the most abundant in them.
Where Can You Find Relics in North Dakota?
Arrowheads are easy to find in North Dakota, especially where flint is present, such as in Crowley Quarry, near Golden River, or the gravels of Killdeer. Both buttes and creeks, especially on private lands, where flint is present, are excellent places to find relics in North Dakota.
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)
North Dakota may not seem like the most exciting place for the regular rock collector; however, it does shine in its variety of fossils.
If you want to hunt for fossils, then North Dakota is undoubtedly among the top locations in the United States.
TIP: Is your backpack big enough to hold all the beautiful rocks you are going to find in North Dakota? If not, check out the best backpacks for rockhounding in the article below:
4 Best Backpacks for Rockhounding: Honest Review & Tips