The 8 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In North Dakota In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 8 Best Spots For Gem Hunting In North Dakota In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


If you’re looking to add some sparkle to your life, North Dakota is the perfect place to go gem hunting. With its diverse terrain and vast stretches of untouched land, our state is full of hidden treasures waiting to be unearthed. From its rolling hills to its river valleys, gem hunting here is a unique experience that combines adventure and discovery.

With its breathtaking scenery and plenty of potential gems, you’ll surely have a memorable experience. So, pack up your supplies and prepare to embark on the ultimate gem hunting adventure!

Our state’s best places to dig for gems are creeks, hillsides, mountains, and quarries. Our favorite ones include Thirty Mile Creek, Souris River, and Turtle Mountain, which we’ve detailed in great descriptions below.

How We Picked The Best Places For Gem Mining in North Dakota
In order to find the absolute best places in North 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 North Dakota You Can Mine

A few pieces of beautiful Calcites located while gem hunting in North Dakota

In North Dakota, there are many different kinds of gems you can find. We’ve put together recommendations and several guides to help you find gem mines close to you because we know that access to these resources differs in each state. Gem hunters can find rare and more common gems here with the proper knowledge and a little luck.

More common gemstones found here

  • Agate
  • Calcite
  • Chalcedony
  • Jasper
  • Quartz

Our Favorite Places For Gem Mining in North Dakota

Although North Dakota doesn’t have many locations for hunting gems, it still has a few spots that you will surely enjoy! These three great places we’ve discovered will catch you in awe with the many hidden gemstones waiting for you to find.

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 directly with the location. We haven’t personally verified every location and the access requirements and collection rules often change without notice.

Many of the locations we mention will not allow collecting but are still great places for those who love to find beautiful rocks and minerals in the wild without keeping them. We also can’t guarantee you will find anything in these locations since they are constantly changing. 

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding. If you want even more current options it’s always a good idea to contact local rock and mineral clubs and groups

Thirty Mile Creek

Gorgeous selenites discovered at Thirty Mile Creek

North Dakota, United States

Thirty Mile Creek is a small tributary of the Souris River. It flows through Bottineau County and is part of the Red River watershed. The creek starts near rural Upham and flows east for about 15 miles before joining the Souris River near Westhope. Thirty Mile Creek is a popular destination for gem mining, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, camping, and wildlife watching.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Thirty Mile Creek

Some of the gemstones found here include the following:

  • Agate
  • Chalcedony
  • Jasper
  • Selenite

The Best Time To Visit Thirty Mile Creek

You can visit Thirty Mile Creek during the summer months of June through August. During this time, the weather is warm, and the water levels are at their highest, making it easier to access the creek bed and search for gems. The summer also provides more daylight hours, allowing you more time to explore and search for gems. Additionally, less rainfall can help make the creek bed easier to traverse during this time of year.

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.

Souris River

A huge Jasper mined at Souris River

Minot, North Dakota

Souris River originates in the Turtle Mountains and flows for about 250 miles before joining the Assiniboine near Minot. The watershed covers about 8,400 square miles and includes parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The river has a rich history, having been used as an essential transportation route by First Nations people for centuries. The river is also famous for recreational gem hunting, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Souris River

These are some of the gemstones that you have a chance to discover here:

  • Agate
  • Chalcedony
  • Jasper
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Souris River

You can visit Souris River during the summer months of June to August when the river is low, and there is less water flow.

Turtle Mountain Reservation

An elegant chalcedony found at Turtle Mountain

St. John, North Dakota, United States

Turtle Mountain is a large plateau located in the state’s north-central region. It’s part of the Great Plains and is home to the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band of North Dakota, a Native American tribe. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years by various indigenous peoples and was named after its distinctive shape, which resembles a turtle’s shell. The area is known for its stunning beauty and abundant wildlife.

The Types Of Gemstones Found At Turtle Mountain Reservation

This place is fortunate to have beautiful gemstones, such as:

  • Agate
  • Chalcedony
  • Quartz

The Best Time To Visit Turtle Mountain Reservation

It’s ideal to visit Turtle Mountain Reservation from June to August. The weather is usually pleasant, and you will have a better chance of finding gems during this time. Additionally, many local attractions are open seasonally and more accessible during these months.

Other Great Options For Real Gem Mining in North Dakota

A stunning Quartz located while real gem mining in North Dakota

In addition to the places we’ve mentioned above, here are more notable areas where gemstones have been found in the state. These locations suit those more experienced with mining gems and looking for places to do real gem mining.

  • Cannonball River – Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper
  • Crowley Quarry – Flint
  • Little Missouri River – Agate, Jasper
  • Sheyenne River – Quartz
  • Tongue River – Calcite

North Dakota Gem Mining Laws And Regulations

The North Dakota Geological Survey (NDGS) regulates gem hunting in our state, and sets rules and regulations for recreational gem hunting on public land.

The NDGS requires that all persons engaging in recreational gem hunting obtain a valid permit from the NDGS before entering any area designated for recreational gem hunting. Permits are available at the NDGS office in Grand Forks and online. All persons engaged in recreational gem hunting must abide by all local, state, and federal laws and regulations. All activities must be conducted safely and responsibly, respecting private property rights. It is illegal to trespass on private land without permission from the landowner.

In addition, all persons engaging in recreational gem hunting must take proper safety precautions to avoid injury or damage to property or natural resources.

For more details about North Dakota’s gem mining laws and regulations, visit the North Dakota Geological Survey (NDGS) site link 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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