The 21 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Illinois In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 21 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In Illinois In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


If you’re looking for a fun activity where you find real buried treasure gem mining in Illinois may just be the perfect choice for you! With its diverse topography and rock formations, our state is an ideal spot for finding some pretty incredible gems.

Whether you are a novice or an experienced gem miner, there are plenty of spots here where you can find a wide variety of gemstones. As you go through your search, you’ll learn more about the geological history of the area.

Check out our list of the best places to go gem hunting here. Whether you’re on your own or with your friends and family, there’s a great place here for you!

The best places to mine gems here are in the state parks, hills, mountains, mines, and farms. Among our favorites are Cave-in-Rock State Park, Minerva Mine, Golden Gulch Gem Mine, and Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm, which we have all discussed below.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in Illinois
In order to find the absolute best places in Illinois for gem mining, we had to consider a lot of things. It can be really tough to find good information, so it took us a long time to put together a solid list like the one below. The main inputs to our recommendations are as follows:

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from several gem hunting groups and organizations
  • The accessibility of the mining locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced gem hunters and those who are just starting out

Overall, we’ve been able to put together a great list that anyone can use to locate a lot of beautiful gems.

The Gemstones Found In Illinois You Can Mine

White Barite attached to a violet Fluorite
Our state may not be as well-known as others when it comes to gemstones, but gem mining here remains to be a fun and rewarding activity that will allow you to experience our state’s natural beauty while doing so.

In this article, we’ll share with you our favorite mine sites so you can select the best one for you. Aside from Illinois, we also prepared different guides to help you locate gem mines near you wherever you are. Let the fun and excitement of gem hunting begin!

Rare gemstones found in Illinois

  • Barite
  • Calcite
  • Diamond
  • Fluorite

More common gemstones found here

  • Agate
  • Aragonite
  • Bornite
  • Calcite
  • Cerussite
  • Jasper
  • Marcasite
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz
  • Selenite
  • Siderite
  • Smithsonite
  • Strontianite
  • Witherite

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining In Illinois

Below are our five favorite places to gem mines here based on the variety of gems that can be found in each location and on the amount of fun you’ll have discovering them.

The first three we discussed here are targeted towards adult who are into real gem mining, while the last two will be perfect for kids and families who want to have a blast while searching for gems.

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Cave-in-Rock State Park

A beautiful, flower-like translucent Cerussite against a black background

1 New State Park Rd. Cave-in-Rock IL 62919

Cave-in-Rock State Park, located in Hardin County and along the banks of the Ohio River, is known not only for its beautiful views and abundant wildlife, but also for offering some of the best gem mining opportunities in the region.

It was established in 1929 and was named after a large rock shelter that had been carved out by the river over time. Today, you can search for gems at several locations throughout the park.

You can also purchase buckets of gravel from vendors and search through them for gems.

The Types of Gems Found In The Cave-in-Rock State Park

This place abounds in diverse gemstones, both rare and more common. Most abundant among these are the following:

  • Barite
  • Calcite
  • Cerussite
  • Fluorite
  • Pyrite
  • Smithsonite
  • Witherite

Confusing gems with each other is a common problem, but fear not! Our user-friendly guides will give you all the information you need to tell specific gems apart:

The Best Time To Visit Cave-in-Rock State Park

If you have plans to visit this place, the best time to do so would be during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather is usually warm during these months, making it ideal for outdoor activities. Additionally, the park typically opens its gem mining area during these months.

Rock pick being used

The tools every gem hunter will need

When you're out looking for gems it's very important that you bring the right tools with you. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced gem miners which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhound supplies guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing.

One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The gem-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Northeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Northeastern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

Minerva Mine No. 1

A white, spiky Strontanite found while gem hunting

Rock Township, IL

Minerva Mine No. 1, located in the town of Metropolis about two miles east of the Ohio River, has been in operation since the mid-19th century. It is known for its production of a unique variety of Quartz crystal called Smoky Quartz.

To this day, the mine is still producing different kinds of gemstones. If you visit this place, avail of the opportunity to search for gems on your own or take part in the mine’s guided tours.

This is among the favorite spots of crystal hunters to search for crystals in Illinois.

The Types of Gems Found In The Minerva Mine No. 1

This mine has a variety of gemstones, but it’s abundant with the following:

  • Barite
  • Strontanite
  • Smoky Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Minerva Mine No. 1

It’s best to visit and explore this place during spring and summer months because the weather is warm and dry. These conditions make it easier to search for gems. Additionally, during this time of year, the ground is more likely to be dry, making it easier to reach the mine.

Golden Gulch Gem Mine – Great for kids

A kid happily sifts through his mine roughs at the sluice of Golden Gulch Gem Mine

17250 Weber Road Lockport, IL 60441

Located in the small town of Elburn about 40 miles west of Chicago, Golden Gulch Gem Mine has been in business since 1992. The area was mined back then for its abundant mineral resources.

In 1992, the current owners purchased the property and began operating as a gem mine. Today, you can enjoy a variety of activities for families and groups, including gem mining, prospecting, rock hounding, gold panning, fossil hunting, and more.

The Types of Gems Found In The Golden Gulch Gem Mine

This mine is great for families and kids who have an inkling towards exploring places and discovering gemstones on their own since it has a rich variety gemstones.

The Best Time To Visit Golden Gulch Gem Mine

Visiting here with kids? The best time to do it would be during the spring and summer months, when the weather is warmer and more conducive to mining activities.

Many people also find that the warmer temperatures make it easier to work with the equipment and search for gems. Additionally, the daylight hours are longer during these months, which allows for more time to explore and search for gems.

Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm – Great for kids

A deep violet Fluorite attached to a rock found while gem mining here

13341 West 151st Street Homer Glen, IL 60491

Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm is a family-owned farm that has been operating since the 1950s. The farm offers a variety of activities, including gem mining among others.

If you visit this place to experience searching for gems, you will sift through bags of sand to find different kinds of gemstones in our state. The gem mining experience is offered from spring through fall each year.

The Types of Gems Found In The Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm

Here, kids will have a blast getting the chance to discover different kinds of gemstone that are naturally found in our region. For a list of the possible finds here, refer to the list of rare and more common gems above.

The Best Time To Visit Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm

If you’re planning to visit here with your kids, the best time would be during the summer months, from May through September. The farm offers gem mining activities on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm availability before visiting.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in Illinois

A golden Marcasite against a black background

Lucky for you, our favorite places are not the only gem mine sites here. Apart from the ones we’ve shared above, here are some more great places that might just give you the gem mining experience of a lifetime.

  • Rosiclare – Calcite, Fluorite, Sphalerite
  • Sparta – Pyrite
  • East Brooklyn – Marcasite, Pyrite
  • Hamilton – Agate, Jasper
  • Fayville – Agate, Diamond, Jasper
  • Cordova – Agate
  • Bishop Hill – Agate, Jasper
  • Galena – Cerussite
  • Thebes- Agate, Jasper
  • Palestine – Siderite
  • Elizabethtown – Aragonite
  • Mt. Vernon – Diamond

We know gemstone confusion can be annoying, but with these practical tips, you’ll be able to tell one gem from another in no time:

The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in Illinois

A white, intricate-looking Witherite

For families wanting to expose their children to the thrill and adventure of gem hunting, here are some of the best family-friendly locations that both you and your kids will enjoy visiting.

Illinois Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

Recreational gem mining is regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). While it is not allowed on any land owned or managed by the IDNR, it is still possible to mine on non-IDNR managed lands by getting permission from the landowner and any other local government agencies governing the land.

Make sure to follow all applicable laws when searching for gems, including those related to trespass and water rights. Additionally, no commercial operations are permitted without first obtaining a permit from IDNR.

The IDNR also prohibits the use of equipment such as shovels, picks, screens, or sluices in streams and rivers.

Finally, it is important to note that any precious gemstones you will find belong to the owner of the property where they were found. If you wish to collect any of it, make sure to get permission from the landowner first.

For more information on the state’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ link above.

Additional places to mine for gems in nearby states

If you’ve already visited all the places we’ve listed above or if you’re considering traveling to the surrounding states, see our guides for those states below:

If you have any recommendations we haven’t covered, please leave them in the comments below!

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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