MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

How to find an agate

Beaches are pretty, but gravel pits yield more treasure.

Looking for agates in Duluth.

© Beth Gauper

People look for agates at Brighton Beach in Duluth's Kitchi-Gammi Park.

The best time to look for agates is on a sunny day, early in the morning or late in the day, when the rays of the sun are slanting across the rocks.

"Agates reflect the light a lot more than other rocks,'' says John Woerheide of Lutsen, Minn., who uses agates in the jewelry he makes. Woerheide suggests walking into the sun and stooping low.

It's fun to look on North Shore beaches, but they're picked over, so he looks after a heavy rain or storm, when new rocks wash up.

He suggests the beaches of Tettegouche and Temperance state parks, as well as the edges of inland rivers, such as the Poplar and the Onion ("not Cascade; I've never found anything there'') and Paradise Beach, 14 miles north of Grand Marais and just south of C.R. Magney State Park.

"The joy of agates is, you can go there and anyone can find one,'' he says.

Gravel pits yield the biggest agates, though active pits don't welcome pickers. Sometimes, clubs are given releases so their members can look on certain days.

If you do want to look for agates along the North Shore, here are six tips to help you find them.

Permits for hunting in Moose Lake

Moose Lake, half an hour south of Duluth off I-35, is renowned for its gravel pits.

You can print out your own free agate-hunting permit from the Moose Lake Chamber of Commerce website, which includes a map to the gravel pits.

Any area that's been disturbed can yield agates, including ATV trails. Railroad tracks and roadsides also yield agates; Lois Allen of Minneapolis says she stops whenever she sees road construction.

Always bring a spray bottle of water to wash dirt off rocks, or hunt right after a rain, when agates are easier to see.

Lake Superior agates, the Minnesota state gemstone, are found throughout eastern Minnesota. Though many are red, they also can be yellow, brown, gray, white, black and even blue or green.

The illustrated booklet “The Rock Picker’s Guide to Lake Superior’s North Shore’’ is very handy and well worth $9.95. It's available at bookstores and gift shops around the Lake.

Finding agates the easy way

On the third Saturday of July, Moose Lake covers a downtown street with gravel that's seeded with 350 pounds of agates and $300 in quarters. For more, see Agate stampede.

Just across Interstate 35 from Moose Lake, see beautiful examples at the interesting Agate and Geological Center in Moose Lake State Park.

In Beaver Bay, the Agate Shop is a fun stop for people heading up the North Shore of Minnesota.

For more information on good places to go rock-picking, see Beaches of the North Shore.

Last updated on December 8, 2015