If you're interested in treasure hunting, consider hunting for Lake Superior agates. In 1969 these Lake Superior rocks were designated by the Minnesota Legislature as the official state gemstone.
Our favorite Duluth Minnesota vacations always include some time to relax on the beach and hunt for agates. We choose a spot pretty much anywhere on the shoreline between Duluth and Grand Marais. We choose one of our favorite hotels in Duluth, and spend part of each day along the shore.
Agates found in Minnesota have a different color scheme than agates found in other parts of the world.
Their rich red, orange, and yellow coloring is caused by the oxidation of iron. The concentration of iron and the amount of oxidation determines the color within, or between, an agate's bands.
Agates are found in a variety of sizes from about the size of a pea to about the size of a bowling ball. Very large agates are extremely rare.
Small agates are often polished to make agate jewelry. Larger agates, called "lakers," are sometimes cut into thin slabs that display the colored bands inside.
Moose Lake Agate and Geological Center: Located at the entrance to Moose Lake State Park, the 4,500 square foot building was opened in 2003 and includes a multi-purpose classroom, nature store gift shop, park offices, a resource workroom, restrooms, and an exhibition hall that showcases Minnesota's gemstone, the Lake Superior Agate. Interpretive displays focus on rocks, minerals and the geology of Minnesota.
The photo above is of just one of the many displays at the Moose Lake Agate Center.
Every year our family spends a few days in a cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The cabin is right on the shore of the great lake and the beach is cobbled with Lake Superior rocks.
Among the many activities that we want to do while we are there, agate hunting is high on the list.
When our kids were growing up they loved to just hunker down on the shore and sort through rocks looking for agates. Over time they became "experts" at recognizing the characteristics of agates. We bought a rock tumbler and spent many hours polishing up our finds after we got home.
I still have a huge plastic bucket in the basement full of small agates we found when the kids were young.
Agates are semi-precious gemstones that can be cut, polished and used in jewelry or, in the case of larger agates, for display. Not all agates found in Minnesota are of gemstone quality. The freezing and thawing to which they are subjected often causes fractures in the agates.
The shores and beaches of Lake Superior are not the only places to find agates.
The Superior glacier lobe spread agates and other debris throughout northeastern and central Minnesota. Hikers, campers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts can readily collect them in many parts of the state...even right in the Twin Cities.
Here are some of the places where you can keep a sharp eye out for Minnesota agates: