Minnesota is one of the best states in the U.S. for rockhounding, mostly thanks to the widespread distribution and high quality of its agates. Rockhounds flock to Minnesota from all over the world to search for the Lake Superior Agates for which the state is famous. These beautiful rocks can be found in localities across almost the entire state due to the relatively recent glacial activity which is responsible for transporting and exposing these unique specimens.
Lake Superior Agates can be found extensively throughout the Midwest, but perhaps most commonly in Minnesota. These agates are unique for their vibrant reddish-orange colors, translucency, and characteristic banding patterns. The glacial activity which carved out Minnesota’s many lakes transported these rocks from the basalt flows to the north and left them behind in glacial till deposits for us rockhounds to find.
The best places to rockhound in Minnesota are the public beaches of Lake Superior, stream gravels, riverbanks, gravel pits, and the many quarries and mining dumps across the state. The Lake Superior beaches north of Duluth are particularly notable for their Lake Superior Agate specimens.
Rocks & Minerals Found in Minnesota
While Minnesota is a great state for rockhounding, it is relatively lacking in the variety of mineral types that can be found. By far the most common and popular rock in the state is the Lake Superior Agate which is present in almost any gravel pit, beach, or stream. In select locations such as old mining dumps and quarries, rockhounds can hope to find specimens of other minerals including jasper, lintonite, and thomsonite.
The most commonly found minerals in Minnesota are:
- Lake Superior Agate
If you’ve already found a rock and you’re not sure what it is, I would highly recommend checking out my Practical Rock Identification System. This bundle of information includes a book, videos, and online tools. It is, simply put, the most comprehensive and easy-to-understand rock identification system you’ll find anywhere.
You can also read through my free rock identification guide and mineral identification guide which are filled with useful information and tools.
Rockhounding Sites in Minnesota
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Minnesota which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of beaches, old mining prospects, streams, and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites. For additional reading, I’d highly recommend these books you can find on Amazon:
Please remember that rock collecting locations are constantly changing. Specimens may become depleted from other collectors, the location may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed hands. Though there are many locations listed here, this list is far from exhaustive. A location’s listing here is not a guarantee of accuracy. Be safe, never go underground, and make sure to get permission from the landowner to search for and collect specimens.
If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page which contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.
Northern Minnesota Rockhounding Sites
The best places to rockhound in Northern Minnesota are the many public access beaches along Lake Superior. Almost any beach along the lake can be accessed by US 61, and offers a very fun and accessible location to hunt for Lake Superior Agates. In addition to these beaches, there are several gravel pits and old mining dumps where rockhounds can hope to find a variety of specimens including agates, thomsonite, lintonite, jasper, and quartz crystals.
Central Minnesota Rockhounding Sites
As is the case with most of the rest of the state, Central Minnesota contains many great sites for finding Lake Superior Agates. The best rockhounding locations are the many area stream gravels, old mining dumps, and gravel pits. Beyond agates, you can find an assortment of mineral specimens including chalcedony, jasper, garnet, and staurolites.
Twin Cities Area Rockhounding Sites
There are several great rockhounding sites in the Twin Cities area, most notably the gravel pits in Osseo. Almost any local creek bed or gravel pit is a great place to search for Lake Superior Agates. While rare, trace amounts of gold have been panned out of glacial drifts, especially near Jordan. For a day of rockhounding, residents of the Twin Cities would do best to drive north to the shores of Lake Superior.
Southern Minnesota Rockhounding Sites
Southern Minnesota offers a wealth of rockhounding locations, but little in the way of variety when it comes to mineral specimens. Lake Superior Agates can be found in almost any regional stream gravels, gravel pits, or quarries. For specimens other than Lake Superior Agate, try the Bronk Quarry where you may find dog tooth calcite, dolomite, goethite, marcasite, and pyrite.
Where to Find Agates in Minnesota
Agates are some of the most commonly collected and sought-after rocks by collectors, and it’s easy to see why. Lake Superior Agates, which Minnesota is famous for, are particularly beautiful even when compared to other agate types. Their characteristic banding and reddish-orange coloring are exceptionally aesthetic and unique to the area. Luckily for rockhounds in Minnesota, there Lake Superior Agates can be found almost anywhere across the state. Agates can be found on almost any public beach, in stream and river gravels, and in gravel pits across the state.
The best places to find agates in Minnesota are:
- Beaver Bay
- French River beach gravels
- Arrowhead Park beaches
- Knife River beaches
- Kelsey Beach
- Gull Rock, beach gravels
- Brainerd, area gravels
- Osseo, area gravels
Minnesota Rockhounding Laws & Regulations
One of the most common questions rockhounds have is whether or not they are allowed to collect at a certain location. It is the responsibility of each rockhound to obtain permission from a landowner to search and/or collect on a piece of property.
The ownership and status of land can and does change frequently, making it impossible to document accurate information on this page. However, I have compiled a list of resources here so that you may investigate and obtain permission for any locations (found here or elsewhere) for yourself.
Public Land Resources
I have written entire articles which cover the rockhounding laws and regulations for nearly every type of public land you can think of. I encourage you to check them out if you are curious about the legalities of rock and mineral collecting.
- Rockhounding on Public Land: Laws and Regulations
- Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Maps.
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Minnesota will have records of who owns each piece of property. Unfortunately for rockhounds, the law in most states prohibits them from publishing their names or contact information online. You can usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. In Minnesota, I would recommend starting with the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office records.
Sources & Further Reading
The locations and information contained in this article are primarily derived from academic papers, online resources, and other outside sources. If you would like to read some of the source material for yourself I have listed them below. The majority of these locations are my interpretation of Robert Beste’s A Location Guide for Rock Hounds in the United States. Other sources you can utilize include:
- Mineral Resources of Minnesota, Emmons & Grout
- Guide to Mineral Collecting in Minnesota, Rapp & Wallace
- Minerals of the Bronk Quarry, Cordua
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources