Gem mining in Minnesota is a popular pastime for adults and children. It can be an exciting adventure, from finding beautiful agates to uncovering quartz crystals. With the state’s diverse geology, you can find amazing gems and precious stones with the right tools and patience.
This article will cover the best locations in the state to go gem hunting. Whether you’re a casual collector or a serious gem hunter, there is something for everyone. So grab your tools and explore the beauty of the state’s hidden gems!
The Gemstones Found In Minnesota You Can Mine
We are incredibly fortunate to have multiple dazzling gemstones that can be extracted from this state. These comprise both the rare and more common varieties of gems, which can be located if one knows the right places to search and is lucky enough:
Rare gemstones found in Minnesota
- Lake Superior Agate
More common gemstones found here
Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining in Minnesota
Although there are many beautiful choices, we picked the top five fantastic locations to dig for gems in Minnesota. Here are the spots where adults and more experienced gem hunters can do real gem mining and recommended places where kids can start learning about gem hunting.
701 Silver Creek Rd NE, Rochester, MN 55906, United States
Quarry Hill Nature Center is a 300-acre park and nature preserve. The park contains several miles of trails where visitors can explore and learn about the local ecology and geology of the area.
Visitors to this center can search for gems and minerals by sifting through dirt and gravel from a local quarry. It’s an experience that will stay with you long after you leave Quarry Hill Nature Center!
The Types of Gems Found At Quarry Hill Nature Center
Visitors can discover a variety of gems here, including:
- Lake Superior Agates
The Best Time To Visit Quarry Hill Nature Center
The best time to visit is during the spring or summer months. This is when the weather is milder and more conducive to outdoor activities such as gem mining.
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 rockhounding equipment 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:
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.
Bronk Quarry and Mill
Winona Co., Minnesota, United States
Bronk Quarry and Mill is a limestone quarry situated on the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior. Gem hunters can explore the mine by taking a guided tour or renting a self-guided kit with safety equipment and tools for collecting stones. The mill offers various services, such as cutting, polishing, and setting gems into jewelry or other items.
The Bronk Quarry was opened in 1857 by John Bronk, a local entrepreneur who recognized the value of limestone for use in building construction. Today, you can explore both Bronk Quarry and Mill sections, including the quarry, mill, and the grounds surrounding the site. You can even explore this area to find amazing Minnesota crystals.
The Types Of Gems Found At Bronk Quarry and Mill
There are numerous kinds of gems and other items to discover like:
The Best Time To Visit Bronk Quarry and Mill
The best time to visit this location is during the summer months of June through August. During this time, the quarry and mill are open to gem miners who can take advantage of gem mining, guided tours, and available educational programs.
Grand Marais, Cook Co., Minnesota, United States
Thomsonite Beach is known for its unique and beautiful pebbles, which are made of a type of rock called thomsonite. It is popular with beachgoers and rock collectors alike who come to search for these unique stones. The pebbles range in color from white to pink to yellow and red.
The Types Of Gems Found At Thomsonite Beach
Most gems found here are Thomsonites, as the beach’s name suggests. You can also discover Agates in this area.
The Best Time To Visit Thomsonite Beach
The best time to visit Thomsonite Beach is from May to September. The water temperature is at its warmest between June and August, making it an excellent time for swimming and searching for gems. It’s also important to note that the beach can be rocky and slippery, so wearing appropriate shoes is necessary.
West Central Rockhounds – Great for kids
1605 1st St S Suite D10, Willmar, MN 56201, United States
West Central Rockhounds is a family-owned and operated business specializing in rocks, minerals, fossils, gemstones, and lapidary supplies. The shop carries a wide selection of gems from around the world and locally sourced items. They also offer classes and workshops on geology and jewelry making. This is a great place to find unique gifts or to learn more about rocks and minerals.
Types Of Gems Found At West Central Rockhounds
The Best Time To Visit West Central Rockhounds
The best time to visit is during the summer months. The shop is open from Fridays to Mondays and offers various geologic specimens, lapidary equipment, and educational materials for rockhounds of all ages.
Get Pickin – Great for kids
N, 3749 Minnesota 33, Cloquet, MN 55720, United States
Get Pickin is an exciting and unique experience for anyone exploring the state’s beauty. Gem hunters have a chance to mine for a variety of gems and minerals. You can purchase a bucket of ore with gems such as quartz, amethyst, jasper, agate, and more. Once you have purchased your bucket, you can use the tools provided to sift through the ore and find your gems. After finding your gems, you can take them home with you as a souvenir or get them cut and polished into jewelry. This location is a great way to explore the outdoors while learning about geology and having fun!
Types Of Gems Found At Get Pickin
Visitors can discover some gems, such as:
- Lake Superior Agates
The Best Time To Visit Get Pickin
The best time to visit this location is from May through September. The gem mining season runs from late April through early October, so you can take advantage of the warmer months to enjoy all that this unique experience has to offer.
Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in Minnesota
After you’ve had a chance to visit the locations we previously highlighted, there are many more exceptional places to do real gem mining in Minnesota. Below, we have enumerated locations where you can find more gems; these sites are primarily for folks who have a lot of experience mining for gems and wish to look for more active mines.
- Acro Mine Lake – Agates, Jasper
- Brighton Beach – Agates
- Charles A. Lindbergh State Park – Staurolites
- Gull Rock – Agates
- Gunflint Trail – Quartz
- Kelsey Beach – Agates
- Mary Ellen Iron Mine – Jasper
- Moose Lake State Park – Agates
- Portsmouth Mine – Agates, Chalcedony
The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in Minnesota
There are several options if you’re looking for more family-friendly locations or a means to experience gem mining firsthand. The best public gem mining in Minnesota for kids and families is listed below. Although these are not traditional mining locations, they provide excellent insight and a practical approach to learning about gems and minerals.
- Pinehaven Farm – 28186 Kettle River Blvd, Wyoming, MN 5509, United States
Minnesota Gem Mining Laws And Regulations
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates recreational gem hunting in the state. While gem hunting is allowed on public lands and designated areas of state parks and forests, specific regulations must be followed, including collecting limits, equipment requirements, and a ban on explosives.
The total amount of gems collected per day cannot exceed 1 quart, and the total amount collected per year cannot exceed 1 gallon. Metal detectors are not allowed when gem hunting, but a shovel and a bucket or container with a lid are required. Explosives are also not allowed for any purpose while gem hunting in Minnesota.
It is illegal to search for gems in streambeds, quarries, archaeological sites, historic sites, cemeteries, and private properties.
To learn more about the state’s laws and regulations, visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) link above.
Additional places to mine for gems in nearby states
When you’re done exploring each location on the list above, you can make use of the guides we’ve created below to find more gems in neighboring states:
If you have any recommendations we haven’t covered, please leave them in the comments below!