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South Dakota is an amazing state for rockhounding. Apart from viewing Mount Rushmore while rockhounding, enthusiasts have a myriad of rockhounding places to enjoy in South Dakota, and various minerals, crystals, gemstones, rocks, and fossils to be found.
You can find turquoise, geodes, gold, quartz, obsidian, agates, various fossils, opals, calcite crystals, tourmaline, jasper, jade, silver, barite crystals, and many other things. Some of the best rockhounding locations in South Dakota are Custer County, and the Black Hills regions, among several other places.
In South Dakota, you can find beautiful rose quartz specimens or the famous Fairfield agate, if you know where to look for them. Let’s see exactly where you can go rockhounding in South Dakota, and what you may find.
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Best Rockhounding Locations in South Dakota
The best rockhounding locations in South Dakota include Tin Mountain, Tepee Canyon, Fairburn, Ardmore, Oelrichs, Spearfish Canyon, Whitewood Creek, Scenic, Hill City, Keystone, Rochford, Broken Boot Gold Mine, Pleasant Valley Creek, Laughing Water Creek, Hell Canyon, Pennington County, or Rattlesnake Butte, among others.
Enthusiasts would be fooled if they believed that only the surrounding regions near the Black Hills are great for rockhounding. South Dakota has various rockhounding sites that are worthwhile, so let’s check some of them out and see what you can find!
The beautiful Tin Mountain located in the Black Hills region is an excellent place for rockhounding in South Dakota. Here, adventurers can find specimens such as fluorapatite, quartz crystals, mica, tourmaline, almandine garnets, cassiterite and zircon in the area gravels.
In Custer County, the town of Fairburn is a fabulous place for rockhounders. Even an agate species is named after it. Fairburn agates are among the most beautiful rocks you can find in South Dakota, and naturally, they are found in Fairburn town, among other places.
Around ten miles south-west of Fairburn, you can find such agates. The area badlands to the south-east gem-quality Fairburn agates are also easy to find, among other specimens such as agatized wood, and even yellow jasper.
In Fall River county, South Dakota, the town of Oelrichs presents itself as among the best rockhounding locations in the state.
Here, explorers can go to the area surfaces to the south and east of the town, and find specimens such as jasper, Fairburn agates, cone-in-cone calcite specimens, agatized wood, or concreations.
About 18 miles east of the town, the northern area of the highway, explorers can also find regular agates.
In Pennington County, the small community of Scenic is another excellent place for rockhounders to test their skills in South Dakota. Basically, all the area creeks and gulches contain amethyst in Pennington County, however in the area ravines, washes, and gravels of Scenic, you can find more than that.
Specimens such as garnet, jasper, gem-quality blue chalcedony, aquamarine, gem-quality carnelian, beryl, or agates, are common here.
In the Black hills region of Pennington County, lies the Keystone town, and it is quite close to Mount Rushmore as well. Apart from the opportunity to visit the iconic mountains, rockhounders can do their thing and find various items in the Keystone region.
Here, in the area mines, explorers can find spodumene, lepidolite, autunite, various colors of tourmaline, golden beryl, quartz crystals, zircon, aquamarine, and a bunch of other rocks, minerals, gemstones, and crystals.
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)
Rockhounding in the Black Hills in South Dakota
The Black Hills in South Dakota is the best place to rockhound in the entire state. Over 40 types of minerals can be found here, alongside rocks, crystals, gemstones, and fossils.
Collection is permitted, except for the historical sites. Some of the best Faiburn agates and rose quartz specimens can be found here.
Can You Take Rocks from Black Hills National Forest?
The Black Hills National Forest contains several historical sites where rockhounding isn’t permitted. Aside from these specially designated areas, rockhounding is permitted in the Black Hills region. Contact the local Ranger District Office to learn more about how much you can take, and from where.
TIP: Rockhounding in the mountains can be very rewarding, find out the most common rocks and minerals you can find in mountains in the article below:
14 Most Common Rocks and Minerals You Can Find in Mountains
Common Rocks Found in South Dakota
Some of the most popular rocks you can find in South Dakota include agates, Fairburn agate, Fairhill agates, geodes, obsidian, flint, staurolite, jasper, concretions, eye jasper, and many others. Fairburn agates are among the most sought after rocks in the state due to their beauty and uniqueness.
|Geodes||Hell Canyon, Pleasant Valley Creek, Spearfish Canyon|
|Agate||Buffalo Gap, Fairburn, Hell Canyon, Pringle|
|Flint||Fall River County, Flint Rock Creek|
There are some beautiful geodes to be found in South Dakota. If you go to Hell Canyon, just north of Jewel Cave, at Natl Monument, you can find some beautiful geode specimens. In Pleasant Valley Creek, at the south-west of Pringle, big geode specimens can be found.
In the gravels of Spearfish Canyon, you can also find geodes, or you can go to Whitewood Creek, and search for geodes in the gravels north of Whitewood. Usually, the geodes found in South Dakota are filled with either amethyst or chalcedony.
Plenty of agates are found in South Dakota as well. To find the famous Fairfield agates, you can go to Buffalo Gap, and search for them in the large area west to the county line. In Fairburn, you can find Fairburn agates just 10 miles south-west of the town, or the area of badlands in the south-east.
Fairburn agates are also found in the Cheyenne River, in the gravels of Custer County. You can also search the badlands south-east of Ardmore. To find regular agates, go to Tepee Canyon, and search in the diggings on the north side of highway.
In Oelrichs, just 18 miles east, you can also find regular agates. The area gravels, pits, in Sioux Falls, are also abundant in agates. In Oglala, the area north-west to Smithwick, or in Red Shirt, in the Cheyenne River gravels, regular agates are also found.
Finding moss agates in South Dakota is also easy. Go to Camp Crook, and search for them in the gravels and tributaries of Little Missouri River. You can also try your luck in Fox Ridge, south-east of Maurine.
To find banded agates in South Dakota, go to Hell Canyon, north of Jewel Cave at Natl Monument. You can also try your luck in Pleasant Valley Creek, south-west of Pringle. Speaking of Pringle, you can find Fairhill agates in this region, the south area to Minnekahta.
When it comes to finding obsidian in South Dakota, things take a different turn. Obsidian is quite rare in this state. One instance of obsidian finding in South Dakota occurred in Lawrence County, at the Galena Mining District, Roubaix.
To find flint in South Dakota, head towards the Flint Hill Quadrangle, Fall River County. You can also try your luck at the Flint Rock Creek. Sometimes, Knife River flint comes into South Dakota from North Dakota.
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What Gemstones Are Found in South Dakota?
South Dakota is rich in gemstones. Here you can find opal, turquoise, tourmaline, opal, jade, aquamarine, amethyst, garnet, zircon, lepidolite, jasper, rose quartz, blue chalcedony, pyrite, gem-quality carnelian, and many others. Rose quartz is among the most sought after gemstones in the state.
|Rose Quartz||Ardmore, Pleasant Valley Creek, Custer County|
|Opal||Mound City, Little Eagle|
|Amethyst||Spearfish Canyon, Whitewood Creek, Pennington County|
|Turquoise||Tin Mountain Mine|
Custer County is among the best places in South Dakota to find the famous and beautiful rose quartz. Another excellent location is in the Pleasant Valley Creek region. You can also find rose quartz in Ardmore, the badlands to the south-east.
If you want to find opals in South Dakota, you need to head towards Mound City, and try your luck in the area west to the Missouri River. Opal is also found in Little Eagle, in the area streams and river gravels or ridges.
When it comes to finding amethyst in South Dakota, things are a bit simpler. Head towards Pennington County, and search for it in the area creeks and gulches.
The majority of them contain amethyst specimens. You can also try the gravels in Spearfish Canyon, or, in Whitewood Creek, you can find amethyst in the gravels north of Whitewood.
Finding turquoise in South Dakota is rare, with few instances recorded. The Tin Mountain Mine in Custer County, has reported several turquoise findings.
If you want to find something similar, try your luck with aquamarine. You can find aquamarine in South Dakota in Scenic, namely the area ravines, washes, and gravels. Try your luck in Keystone, in the area mines as well.
TIP: Turquoise is one of my favourite rocks and can be really valuable. Find out how valuable turquoise can be in the article below:
3 Key Factors of Turquoise Value: Is It Worth Any Money?
Minerals Found in South Dakota
Several minerals can be found in South Dakota. Among the most popular are barite, selenite, arsenopyrite, fluorapatite, columbite, gold, silver, cassiterite, mica, chalcedony, calcite, whewellite, catlinite, spodumene, lepidolite, autunite, beryl, garnet, and many others. In the Black Hills region alone, there are over 40 mineral types.
|Gold||Laughing Water Creek, Broken Boot Gold Mine, Savoy, Rochford|
|Silver||Savoy, Laughing Water Creek, Rochford|
|Chalcedony||Ardmore, Scenic, Rockyford, Oglala|
South Dakota isn’t particularly known for its gold as other U.S. states, however, there are various places where you can find it. The area mines in Laughing Water Creek are an excellent place to start, or the Broken Boot Gold Mine, near Deadwood, however, you have to pay a small fee here.
Some other great locations to find gold in South Dakota include Savoy, namely the area mines and pits to the east, or in Rochford, the area mines south-west.
When it comes to rockhounding for silver in South Dakota, you can also go to the area mines in the south-west of Rockford. The Laughing Water Creek is also abundant in silver, and so are the area mines and pits to the east of Savoy.
To find chalcedony in South Dakota, you can try your luck in the Interior, the area east and north outside the park boundaries. In the Cheyenne River gravels near Red Shirt, or in Oglala the area south-west to Smithwick, you can find it as well.
To find blue chalcedony, go to the Rockyford, and search the area washes to the west. Gem-quality blue chalcedony can also be found in the area ravines, washes, or gravels of Scenic.
TIP: Double refraction or birefringence is a typical and fascinating physical property for a lot of minerals. Find out more about this unique mineral’s property in the article below:
8 Minerals That Show Double Refraction (+ Explanation Why)
Crystals Found in South Dakota
South Dakota may have various minerals on its territory, however, it also shines in a couple of crystal specimens as well. You can find crystals such as fluorite, quartz crystals, selenite crystals, barite crystals, calcite crystals, cassiterite, or spodumene, among many others if you know where to look.
|Barite crystals||Elm Creek, Meade County, Rapid City,|
|Quartz crystals||Tin Mountain, Keystone, Elk Creek|
|Calcite crystals||Oelrichs, Elk Creek, Rattlesnake Butte|
|Selenite crystals||Wagner, Piedmont|
To find barite crystals in South Dakota, you should first start in Elm Creek. Here, gray or rosettes barite specimens can be found in the Pierre Formation near Missouri River.
Yellow, amber, and high-quality barite crystals are also found in Meade County, in the banks and gravels of Elk Creek. Golden barite crystals can be found in Rapid City, in the area washes and draws east of Wall.
The Black Hills region of South Dakota is well known for its quartz crystal specimens. At Tin Mountain, you can find beautiful quartz crystals in the gravel. The area mines near Keystone are also filled with quartz crystals, but you can also find them in Elk Creek, in the wide gravels north of Wasta.
When it comes to calcite crystals, among the largest specimens can be found in Rattlesnake Butte. Calcite crystals are also present in the regional wide gravels of Elk Creek, north of Wasta. You can also find cone-in-cone calcite specimens in Oelrichs, in the area surfaces to the south or east.
If you want to find selenite crystals in South Dakota, you should go to the Piedmont area. There, search the eastern area. Selenite roses can also be found in Wagner, just east to Scotland in the road cuts, or stream gravels.
Facts About Fossils in South Dakota
Some of the best places to find fossils in South Dakota are Hell Canyon, Pleasant Valley Creek, Summerset, Rapid City, or Mission. Generally, the area washes, draws, banks, gravels, are among the best places to find them, and you can expect to find cephalopods, corals, brachiopods, or ostracoderms.
Fossils can be found throughout the state as during the early Paleozoic era, the state of South Dakota was actually submerged by a shallow sea.
You can also expect to find fossils of brontotheres, rhinoceroses, rabbits, horses, camels, oreodonts, entelodonts, rodents, and other carnivores or dinosaur and plant fossils.
Petrified wood, for example, can be found in Mound City, the area west of the Missouri River. You can also find petrified wood in the area stream and river gravels, ridges, of Little Eagle. Agatized wood is usually present in Fairburn, Ardmore, or Oelrichs. Silicified wood is present in Parker Peak, Spearfish Canyon, or Whitewood Creek.
When it comes to finding relics and artifacts in South Dakota, such as arrowheads, they are also present throughout the state. The Black Hills region and badlands is usually the best location to find such items. However, it is illegal to collect them on public property or private property without permission.
South Dakota’s first official state fossil was destroyed due to illegal collection and vandalism, and because of this, the rules are stricter when it comes to fossils. Please be sure to consult the local laws beforehand, and consider that everyone should rejoice in finding such specimens, without taking them home.
TIP: Good GPS system is recommended when rockhounding, this smart tool can safe you. Check out the best GPS for rockhounding in the article below:
Best GPS For Rockhounding: 3 Best GPSes of the Year
FAQ About Rockhounding in South Dakota
Still did not find the answer to your answers about rockhounding in South Dakota? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:
Where Are the Agate Beds in South Dakota?
The agate beds in South Dakota is a reference for the Fairburn Agate Beds that are located 12 miles north-east or Fairburn town, in Custer County. The agate beds are located in Buffalo Gap national Grassland, and contain vast amounts of rocks, minerals, and fossils, particularly the elusive and world famous Fairburn agates.
What is South Dakota’s State Fossil?
The official state rock of South Dakota is the Triceratops since 1988. However, the first official state fossil was the palm-like Mesozoic plant cycad, which was destroyed through vandalism and illegal collecting, which resulted in its replacement with the triceratops dinosaur fossil. The triceratops lived during the Late Cretaceous Period.
What is South Dakota’s State Rock?
South Dakota does not have an officially designated state rock. However, its official state gemstone, which is technically a rock, is the Fairburn agate, since 1966. They come with bands of various colors and formed in limestone about 330 to 250 million years ago. They erode out of the limestone over time due to their hardness.
South Dakota is an amazing state for rockhounding. Here, you can find several rare and beautiful specimens, such as the Fairburn agate, or the rose quartz, among many other things.
From various fossils, minerals, and rocks, to crystals and gemstones, South Dakota is a state that shouldn’t be missed by any true rockhounding enthusiast.
TIP: Have you ever thought about tumbling your rocks? Rock tumbling is cool activity and you can try at home. Check out the ultimate guide about rock tumblers in the article below: