North dakota agates

North dakota agates DEFAULT

When it comes to rockhounding, North Dakota is often overlooked for its neighboring states, but it has a lot of potential for any collectors looking to get out and do some searching. The relatively tame surface geology of the state doesn’t lend itself to a wide variety of rocks and minerals, but those that are present are high-quality and fairly abundant.

In most states, some of the best rockhounding locations are around old mining districts and eroded mountain ranges. In North Dakota, however, the prospective rockhounding locations tend to be more well distributed and accessible.

In general, the best places to rockhound in North Dakota are along major rivers and their tributaries, particularly the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Cannonball Rivers. Quartz-family gemstones like agate, chalcedony, and jasper are commonly found in their bars, banks, and gravels.

North Dakota is fairly underappreciated by rockhounds, but a determined collector can have many enjoyable rockhounding excursions all across the state. Keep reading and I’ll give you a map of locations you can check out and what you can find there.

State Symbols
State Mineral
State Rock
State Gemstone
State FossilTeredo Petrified Wood
Petrified wood

Rocks and Minerals Found in North Dakota

While North Dakota is a pretty decent state for rockhounds, it is pretty lacking in the overall variety of rocks and minerals you can find here. Due to the overall lack of volcanic or mountain-building activity, there are very few places where a collector can hope to find interesting pegmatite or metamorphic minerals.

That being said, there is plenty to be excited about as a rock and mineral collector in North Dakota. Quartz-family gemstones like agates, jasper, chalcedony, and petrified wood are abundant all over the state. The agates found in some parts of North Dakota are pretty unique and would make great additions to any collection.

Beyond the quartz-family minerals, in select locations you can also hope to find calcite and selenite crystals, or even something a little more exotic like thenardite or glauberite.

The most commonly found and collected rocks and minerals in North Dakota are:

  • Agate
  • Jasper
  • Flint
  • Chalcedony
  • Petrified wood
  • Selenite
  • Calcite

Where to Rockhound in North Dakota

Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in North Dakota which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of old mining prospects, washes, 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. Joining up with a local rockhounding club for a group trip can often get you access to otherwise off-limits locations like privately owned mines and quarries. There are many rockhounding clubs in North Dakota so you can most likely find one you like nearby.

I have tried to take care not to list locations within National Park boundaries since collecting is illegal there, but please remember that it is up to you to make sure you have permission to collect wherever you are. There is plenty of BLM and National Forest land to collect on in North Dakota which is, in general, open for public use. Still, there may be privately owned mining claims inside those boundaries and you’ll need to get permission to collect on that location.

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.

North Dakota Rockhounding Sites

Rockhounding in North Dakota is fairly straightforward. There aren’t really any ‘hot spots’ where the rockhounding is great, but almost anywhere around the state has some potential. North Dakota isn’t well known for mining operations of gemstones, so unlike most of the surrounding states, you can’t really plan on sorting through old mine tailings looking for interesting material.

That being said, quartz-family minerals like agates, chalcedony, and jasper can be found in almost any stream or river by looking in the gravel beds and banks. These rocks are left over from ancient mountain ranges and have been distributed all across the state by rivers and glaciation. Because quartz is relatively hard, they can be transported great distances and withstand countless years of weathering while waiting to be discovered by you.

Much of North Dakota is covered in sedimentary rock formations which are rich in fossils. In fact, North Dakota is home to some of the most famous fossil beds in the world, and if you search in the right places you can find fossils from countless ancient species of plants and animals (including dinosaurs!)

Collectors in North Dakota will most likely be highly interested in finding some unique varieties of agate.

‘Montana moss agates’ are unusually transparent with interesting inclusions, and are sometimes accompanied by carnelian. In North Dakota, they can be found near the western border along the Yellowstone River and its tributaries.

‘Fairfield agates’ are most commonly found in the Black Hills of South Dakota and extending into Nebraska, but can sometimes be found as far north as the southwest corner of North Dakota.

North Dakota is also home to a fairly unique variety of petrified wood. ‘Teredo petrified wood’ is the fossilized remnants of wood that has been bored through by tiny clams, giving it a very distinctive appearance. Teredo petrified wood is most commonly found between the towns of Lisbon and Mandan in southern North Dakota.

LocationRocks & Minerals
Hettinger, in gravels along length of Cedar CreekAgatized wood
Medora, in badlands and area surfacesAgate, Chalcedony, Silicified wood, Concretions
Bismark, sands and gravels along Missouri RiverAgate, Chalcedony, Silicified wood, Jasper
Cannonball River, entire length in Grant CountyAgate, Chalcedony, Silicified wood, Jasper
Hettinger County, area to N along Thirty Mile CreekAgate, Chalcedony, Silicified wood, Jasper, Selenite crystals
Richardton, broad area to SAgate, Chalcedony, Agatized wood, Jasper, Selenite crystals
Tappen, area to E in gravelsAgate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Fossils
Souris River, between Denbigh and VelvaQuartz gemstones, Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Fossils
McKenzie County, gravels of major rivers and tributariesAgate (‘Montana moss agate’), Jasper, Silicified wood
Little Missouri River, in gravels NW of Grassy ButteAgate (‘Montana moss agate’), Jasper, Agatized wood
Crowley Quarry, near Golden ValleyFlint (gem-quality)
Mandan, area gravels, washes pits, etc.Agate, Chalcedony, Chert, Silicified wood (‘Teredo petrified wood’)
Stanley, on shores of lakes to NWGlauberite, Halite, Thenardite
Tongue River, in limestone outcrops S of ConcreteCalcite crystals, Fossils
Sheyenne River, in gravels of Ramsey and Pembina CountiesQuartz gemstones, Petrified wood, Fossils
Lisbon, in gravels surrounding townQuartz gemstones, Petrified wood (‘Teredo petrified wood’)
Turtle Mountain, area gravels and pitsQuartz gemstones, Agate, Chalcedony
Dickinson, area surfaces and gravelsAgate, Chalcedony
Minot, area gravels and pitsQuartz gemstones, Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Fossils
Williams County, all area stream and river gravelsAgate (‘Montana moss agate’), Jasper (red, yellow)
Killdeer, area streams and gravels SE to BismarkFlint (‘Knife River Flint’)

Where to Find Geodes in North Dakota


Everyone enjoys the prospect of finding their very own geodes out in the wild, and it’s easy to see why. Cracking them open reminds me of opening a Kinder-Egg with a surprise toy inside. You never know what type of crystals or patterns you’re going to find inside and it makes them incredibly exciting.

Unfortunately, there are no known sites where geodes can be found in North Dakota. In order to find your own geodes, you will need to expand your search radius to include neighboring states like Montana and South Dakota where they can be found in several locations.

Tip: Not sure if the rock you’ve found is a geode? Check out my article about how to identify a geode.

Where to Find Agates in North Dakota


I love finding agates because you never know what sort of beautiful patterns and colors they might contain. They are some of the most popular rocks to tumble, and it’s easy to see why with their intricate banding and unique designs.

Agates also happen to be some of the most commonly collected rocks in the United States, including North Dakota. In fact, North Dakota is home to some fairly unique varieties of agate including the highly sought-after Fairfield agates and Montana moss agates. While those particular types of agate are more commonly found in South Dakota and Montana, respectively, they can be found in North Dakota along with other, more common, varieties.

If you’re looking to start collecting rocks in North Dakota, agates are a great place to start. They are probably the most commonly collected rock around here, largely because of their relative abundance. They are widespread and fairly easy to find if you have a general idea of where to look.

In general, the best places to find agates in North Dakota are in the gravels of rivers and streams all throughout the state. Gravel beds and washes which contain freshly exposed material will present the best opportunity for finding agates, particularly after a strong rain.

Tip: For more info about agates and where to find them, check out my article here.

For additional locations to search for Fairburn agates (and other varieties) you can check out my South Dakota Rockhounding Location Guide.

North Dakota 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 for every location 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.

To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with the maps from NorthDakota’s Game, Fish & Parks Department.

Private Land Resources

As with most states, each county in South Dakota will have records of who owns each piece of property. You can also usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. I would probably start by checking the public records in the county you’re interested in and getting whatever contact information you can for the landowner.

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 include:

This post is part of my State-By-State Rockhounding Guides series. Please check out more states for thousands of additional sites to go rockhounding!


More Geologic Goodies – Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

There are two moments in polishing stones that are akin to Christmas morning for a kid.  One is after the first rough polish. It’s at that stage where you get some wonderful hidden surprises, where the rough polishing has removed outer material and exposed some beautiful patterns underneath (happens a lot with bubblegum agates, for example).  The second big moment is taking a batch out of the final polish. It’s a long process to polish rocks!  I’ve learned patience, and it’s usually a two-month process to go from rough material, to a beautiful, shiny final product.  Here are photos of the latest batch…my best yet, without question!  A wonderful mix of agates, quartz, petrified wood, and jaspers.   And the best aspect of this batch…EVERY piece was self-collected, on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands here in South Dakota.

Polished agates and Stones - South Dakota Rockhound

An overview of the final batch. In this batch, I included a wide variety of stones, including many different agates, petrified wood, quartz, and jaspers. The one thing they all have in common…they all came out WONDERFULLY shiny!

Polished Fairburn Agate

A surprise! This is one of those agates where there’s a surprise underneath a weathered outer layer. I suspected there might be something special underneath the heavily weathered exterior of this piece. There certainly is…the beautiful, fine banding of a Fairburn agate.

Bubblegum Agates - Polished

Typical bubblegum agates. Once polished, most seem to show the reddish and cream colors of the agates shown here. Once the little eyed nodules wear down in the polishing process, you can get some truly gorgeous colors. Best of all, bubblegums take a VERY good polish and shine.

Petrified Wood - Polished

This is the most common form of petrified wood that I’ve found on the Grasslands. You do have to be careful polishing, as sometimes the wood pattern is only on the exterior of the piece and may wear away if you polish too much. If you’re careful though, you can get a beautifully polished piece such as this.

Polished Bubblegum Agate

This is small piece, the diameter of a penny. But HOLY COW do some polished bubblegum agates look wonderful when polished. In this case, the entire outside of the bubblegum was black when I first put it in the polisher. Many times that black wears completely off, often leaving the typical red and cream colors of bubblegums found here. On this one, I stopped the rough polish while it still had some black “eyes”. Gorgeous little piece.

Polished Gray Quartz "Egg"

There are pieces of quartz on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands of many different colors. This smoky gray piece polished up beautifully, particularly after I left it in the rough-polish stage for many weeks to get the “egg” shape.

Polished Red Congomerate / Jasper

I don’t know what to call this piece, but it’s freakin’ gorgeous! It’s pretty much one-of-a-kind for pieces I’ve found on the grasslands.

Heavily banded agate - Polished

Most of the prairie and bubblegum agates you find have some form of banding. Many have some very fine bands. But this piece has more “layers” of thin banding than most pieces, and it has some incredibly beautiful colors as well. It’s got an unusual shape, and I was tempted to keep it in the rough polish phase for several more weeks to get a more rounded shape. Given how beautiful it is, however, I didn’t want to take a chance it might break apart, so did the final polishing on this unusual shape.

Polished Quartz Variety - South Dakota

Some of the polished quartz pieces from this batch. Clear, White, and pinkish tones are the colors you find the most, but there are others as well. ALL polish up beautifully.

Polished South Dakota Agate - (Fairburn?)

Another agate where the pattern underneath really wasn’t revealed until after many weeks of polishing. It’s not as obvious as the Fairburn above, but there are some hints of a Fairburn-type pattern.

Polished mossy agate - South Dakota

I know there’s a kind of agate called “mossy agate”. I’m not sure that’s what this is, but it’s such an unusual piece. The pattern itself is quite unusual for agates I’ve found, but so is the mossy, orangish patterns that fill in the gaps between the white blobs. Cool one-of-a-kind piece in my collection.

Polished Prairie Agate - South Dakota

From an unusual piece above, to a pretty common piece. While creamy and white banded prairie agates are the most common color form I seem to find, I also often find ones like this, with blackish bands in a creamy matrix.

Colorful Petrified Wood - South Dakota

The grayish petrified wood near the top of this post is easy to find, but you do also sometimes find more colorful pieces. This one has some wonderful reddish tones, as well as a bluish streak on the back side.

Polished South Dakota Agate

I kept putting this pieces back through the rough-tumbling phase, trying to wear a bit more off of this side to try to reveal more of the different colors. But alas, it kept getting smaller and smaller, but with the same color pattern.

Polished South Dakota Bubblegum Agate

Another great little bubblegum agate. Some of these pieces end up showing many little eyes once polished, but many also often show some gorgeous banding underneath.

Petrified Wood - South Dakota

Some of the petrified wood in this batch, showing the variety of forms you can find on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.

Polished South Dakota Conglomerate / Prairie Agate

I’m not sure what you call this…a prairie agate, or some kind of conglomerate. Prairie agates here seem to often be banded, but some too do look like a mish-mash of fragments that have been found together. The conglomerate-looking ones really can have some cool patterns once polished.

Polished South Dakota Conglomerate / Prairie Agate

Speaking of funky conglomerate-like stones…this one has some very fine patterns that are pretty unusual compared to other pieces I’ve found.

Polished Quartz - South Dakota

The biggest piece in this batch, an almost tennis-ball-sized chunk of quartz with an cool brownish-orange tone intermixed throughout.

Polished bubblegum agate with "eyes"

Sometimes bubblegum agates turn out like this when polished, with just the “eyes” remaining.

Small polished prairie agate

Size doesn’t matter! Even the small little pieces have some gorgeous patterns once you photograph them in macro mode.

Polished Red Splotch Agate

I call this “red splotch agate”. Given I’m still new at this and have no idea of what to really call it.

Polished Red Prairie Agate

Some of the prairie agates have reddish tones, but this one has more red throughout than most that I find.

Reddish polished quartz

Another of the reddish quartz pieces.

Polished South Dakota Quartz

And…one last one, another polished piece of quartz.

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Agate, North Dakota

Coordinates: 48°37′22″N99°29′36″W / 48.62278°N 99.493197°W / 48.62278; -99.493197

Agate is an unincorporated community in southeastern Rolette and western Towner counties in the U.S. state of North Dakota. It lies along North Dakota Highway 66, south and northwest respectively of the cities of Rolla and Cando, the county seats of Rolette and Towner counties respectively.[1] Its elevation is 1,657 feet (505 m), and it is located at 48°37′22″N99°29′36″W / 48.62278°N 99.49333°W / 48.62278; -99.49333 (48.6227795, -99.4931974).[2] Agate has the ZIP code 58310.[3]


Agate was laid out in 1906.[4] A post office was established at Agate in 1907, and remained in operation until it was discontinued in 1964.[5] The community was named for local deposits of agate.[4]


Gem mining in the Black Hills of SD

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My grandma has a farm in south central ND so I've been combing the fields and lake beaches since I was a kid for rocks. Petrified wood and flint make up the vast majority of finds, with the occasional fossil.

There is a particular type of North Dakota agate I find regularly. I've never found any information on it. You have Lakers to the east, Fairburns and Teepee to the south, and Montana Moss to the west, but never anything about the north dakota agates.

They are very similar to montana moss agates, except they are typically less transparent, and more creamy/yellow in color. I call them North Dakota Snot agates due to their resemblance to it.

They often appear to have flowed or folded around something. There's typically a polygonal core that is either hollow or filled with quartz or opaque agate.

Some of the agates have a bumpy surface composed of hemispheres.

Nearly all of them have transparent inner bands with banding. The banding is typically very feint, unless there is an white layer built up (probably from the heavily alkali-water), or from dark inclusions.

Some of them look more like montana moss agates, with black inclusions and a more transparent material. However, they are still more yellow-ish, definitely not the same as true montana moss agates. Kind of like a cross-breed.

PC304522 I want to point out looks almost indistinguishable from a lake superior agate. There is a peeler-like top surface on the left in a reddish-orange hue, strong banding, and one reddish band. From my studies, there was never any glacier or outwash that should have pushed lakers all the way to north dakota. So it's probably just from ancient canadian mountains and happens to have similar properties. Since nearly all central ND is covered in several hundred feet of glacial till, with no volcanic activity of it's own, all of these agates must have originated in long-eroded canadian mountains I'm guessing.

A few of the agates I've found have been a much more opaque dark blackish-blue, PC304518 demonstrates this. It still has the hollow polygonal inside and similar texture.

PC304519 and PC304521 also demonstrate some darker reddish-yellow versions, that almost look like lakers too.

Some like PC304537 have perfectly straight banding, like water-level agates. I have one with the straight banding partially fills up a polygonal hollow.

PC304543 is a collection of a few that have a more opalish color, a brighter creamier color inside the more yellowish.

The last image is of a very unique north dakota crazy lace like (agate?). It's the only one I've ever found, and it's a large 3inch boulder. I have no idea where this could have come from, and haven't seen anything else like it in north dakota.





Agates north dakota


Black Hills, Day 1: Hunting Teepee Canyon Agates, and Driving Iron Mountain Road!


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