The Best Spots For Gem Hunting In South Dakota In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The Best Spots For Gem Hunting In South Dakota In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


Gem hunting in South Dakota is an adventure like no other! Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned miner, the state’s abundance of precious gems makes it a great place to explore. The landscape is brimming with potential from the Black Hills to the Badlands.

You can discover some of the most stunning gems here with a bit of work and the aid of our guides. We’ve created a list of some of the best spots we recommend for gem hunting in this state. So get ready for an exciting gem hunt adventure, as these gemstones await you!

Looking for gems is best done in our state’s mines, rivers, creeks, mountains, hillsides, and canyons. Our top picks, which we’ve covered in great detail below, are Teepee Canyon, Tin Mountain Mine, Black Hills, Rush Mountain Adventure Park, and Dakota Stone Rock Shop.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in South Dakota
In order to find the absolute best places in South Dakota for gem mining we had a lot of things to consider. 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 South Dakota You Can Mine

A gorgeous Cassiterite discovered while gem hunting in South Dakota

South Dakota has plenty of gemstones waiting to be found, which is great for gem seekers. We’ve put together several guides to help you discover gems near you since the availability of gem resources differs from each state. With the right information and some luck, you’ll find how much fun digging for gems can be at Mount Rushmore State!

Rare gemstones found in South Dakota

  • Fairburn Agate
  • Rose Quartz

More common gemstones found here

  • Amethyst
  • Barite
  • Beryl
  • Calcite
  • Carnelian
  • Cassiterite
  • Chalcedony
  • Fluorite
  • Jasper
  • Lepidolite
  • Obsidian
  • Opal
  • Sphalerite
  • Spodumene
  • Staurolite
  • Tourmaline
  • Turquoise
  • Zircon

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining in South Dakota

These are the places that we have identified as being the best in the state for mining gems. If you want to learn more about gem mining, check out these well-known websites. We also suggested locations where kids can learn and enjoy the thrill of gem-hunting.

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.

Teepee Canyon

A man looking for gemstones at Teepee Canyon

West Custer Township, SD 57735, United States

Teepee Canyon is a scenic canyon located in the Badlands National Park. The canyon is named for its unique rock formations, which resemble teepees. It is a great first stop for gem hunters of all skill and experience levels. The area provides guided tours that include a lesson about the area’s geology and how to identify the different gems and minerals. You can find gemstones in the stream or creek that runs throughout the area.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Teepee Canyon

Aside from the abundant Fairburn Agates in this spot, gem hunters may also find different types of gemstones, including:

  • Beryl
  • Garnet
  • Jade
  • Jasper
  • Lepidolite
  • Staurolite
  • Tourmaline

The Best Time To Visit Teepee Canyon

The best time to visit Teepee Canyon is during the summer months of June, July, and August. The weather in our state can be unpredictable, so it’s important to check the forecast before visiting. Additionally, it may be closed during winter due to snow and ice.

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 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:

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

Northwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Northwestern 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.

Tin Mountain Mine

A pile of beautiful Tourmalines located at Tin Mountain Mine

West Custer Township, SD 57730, United States

Tin Mountain Mine is located in the Black Hills of the state. It is a former underground tin mine operated by the Black Hills Tin Mining Company from 1877-1909. It allows gem miners to search for precious gems and minerals in the area. You can take part in an hour-long exploration of the mine and its surroundings, panning for stones containing valuable gemstones or minerals. You will also learn about the history of mining in the state and explore some of the many attractions and activities available in the area.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Tin Mountain Mine

Some of the unique gemstones found here include the following:

  • Cassiterite
  • Garnet
  • Mica
  • Quartz
  • Tourmaline
  • Zircon

The Best Time To Visit Tin Mountain Mine

It is ideal for visiting Tin Mountain Mine during June, July, and August. The area is more comfortable to explore when the weather is sunny and warm. In addition, the mine is open year-round for you to explore.

Black Hills

A wonderful Gypsum discovered at Black Hills

Custer, SD, United States

Black Hills of South Dakota is a small mountain range located in the western part of the state, near the border with Wyoming. The area is home to many national monuments, including Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park. It is a popular location for gem miners in the state. The area is known for its rich deposits of different types of gemstones, and you can explore the many streams and gravel beds to search for these treasures.

Many local businesses offer gem mining packages that include a bucket of dirt or gravel containing gemstones that an experienced guide can identify. These packages offer an exciting way to experience this unique activity and take home a special souvenir from your trip.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Black Hills

It’s a great place to discover gemstones here. It is well recognized to have the following qualities:

  • Beryl
  • Fairburn Agate
  • Feldspar
  • Gypsum
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Black Hills

Summer is the perfect season to hunt for gems in the Black Hills. The warm weather makes it an excellent time to explore and go gem hunting outdoors. Additionally, it gives you plenty of chances to discover some rare gems.

Rush Mountain Adventure Park – Great for kids

Children having fun while searching for gemstones at Rush Mountain Adventure Park

13622 SD-40, Keystone, SD 57751, United States

Rush Mountain Adventure Park is an outdoor adventure park in the beautiful Black Hills of our state. The park is home to various attractions, including searching for gems, an alpine slide, a ropes course, and more. Gem hunting at Rush Mountain Adventure Park is an excellent way for families and kids to experience the fun and excitement of prospecting for precious gems.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Rush Mountain Adventure Park

This area is a great place to dig for gems. In particular, it is known to have the following:

  • Agate
  • Amethyst
  • Calcite
  • Garnet
  • Jasper
  • Pyrite
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Rush Mountain Adventure Park

During the summer months of June, July, and August, the park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can enjoy various activities, including gemstone mining, zip lining, mini golf, bumper boats, and more. Additionally, there are often special events like concerts and festivals at Rush Mountain Adventure Park that you may be able to attend.

Dakota Stone Rock Shop – Great for kids

Kids trying gemstone mining at Dakota Stone Rock Shop

US-385, Hill City, SD 57745, United States

Established in 1994, Dakota Stone is the most significant rock shop in the Black Hills area and has become a premier destination for rock collectors, gem hunters, and hobbyists alike. The shop carries a wide selection of rocks, minerals, gems, fossils, and more from around the world. With friendly staff and knowledgeable information about geology, Dakota Stone offers an educational experience for everyone who visits.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Dakota Stone Rock Shop

Here, gem hunter can locate various gems, including:

  • Agates
  • Amethyst
  • Fluorite
  • Jasper
  • Opal

The Best Time To Visit Dakota Stone Rock Shop

The shop is open year-round, but the summer offers the best weather to dig for gems. During this time, kids can also take advantage of longer daylight hours for more time to explore and enjoy the area.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in South Dakota

A cluster of mesmerizing Amethyst located while real gem mining in South Dakota

In addition to the amazing places in our state we’ve already listed, there area many more real gem mining areas to try out. These locations below are ideal for seasoned gem hunters:

  • Broken Boot Gold Mine – Pyrite, Sphalerite
  • Buffalo Gap National Grasslands – Agates, Quartz, 
  • Cheyenne River Reservation – Fairburn Agate
  • Elk Creek – Barite, Calcite, Quartz
  • Elm Creek – Barite
  • Hell Canyon – Agate, Jade, Jasper
  • Pleasant Valley Creek – Agate, Jade, Jasper
  • Railroad Buttes – Fairburn Agate, Jasper, Rose Quartz, Quartz
  • Sioux Falls – Agate, Jasper
  • Spearfish Canyon – Amethyst, Chalcedony

The Top Public Gem Mining Locations in South Dakota

Kids doing public gem mining in South Dakota

There are more kid-friendly public gem mining locations in our state where kids may learn about gems. The following locations are noteworthy:

South Dakota Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

South Dakota does not have any specific recreational gem hunting regulations. However, individuals should know the laws and regulations for all gem collecting and prospecting activities on public lands.

All collecting activities on public lands are subject to the regulations and requirements of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM requires a permit for any rock and mineral collecting activities, such as exploration or prospecting, on BLM-administered lands. In addition, individuals should be aware that state laws may apply to recreational gem hunting activities on public lands. For example, South Dakota has a law prohibiting the removal or disturbance of artifacts from archaeological sites without permission from the state Historic Preservation Office.

For more information about South Dakota’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the link of South Dakota’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) above.

Additional Places To Mine For Gems In Nearby States

If you’ve already tried all of our recommendations above or are planning a trip out of the state you should check out our guides for neighboring states:

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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