Iowa may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of geode hunting, but believe me when I say that there are some great options for any rock enthusiast to find these rocks successfully. Geodes are essentially rocks that are lined with crystals on the inside, and Iowa happens to have a lot of them. You can find geodes in Iowa particularly in areas with limestone and dolomite formations. With a little research and preparation, you’ll be sure to find some great specimens to add to your collection.
Now, I won’t sugarcoat it, geode hunting in Iowa can be a bit tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s not just a matter of going out into the wilderness and randomly picking up rocks. You need to have a basic understanding of geology and what to look for in terms of formations and rock types. But don’t worry, we have plenty of resources available to help you get started.
What Are Iowa Geodes Anyway?
Iowa geodes are a rockhound’s dream come true. They’re essentially round or oblong-shaped rocks that are lined with gorgeous crystals on the inside. These beauties are found throughout Iowa, but they’re most common in areas with limestone and dolomite rock formations. Iowa’s outstanding geology makes it simple for geodes to form.
For your convenience, we have also created a guide so you’ll have an idea of what does the outside of a geode look like.
But don’t let their rough exterior fool you – once you crack them open with a rock hammer and chisel, the magic happens. Inside, you’ll find a dazzling array of crystals, ranging from white to purple to orange to green. It’s like opening a present and never knowing what you’ll get. So, grab your tools and head to Iowa to find some of the most beautiful geodes around!
The Types Of Geodes Found In Iowa
Geodes are somewhat reserved and won’t just appear in front of you. Given that these are widespread throughout the planet, you don’t have to worry about not finding any. The kind of crystal inhabiting a geode significantly impacts the geode’s value and beauty. Iowa is home to the following geodes:
- Chalcedony geodes
- Keokuk geodes (lined with amethyst, calcite, chalcedony, limonite, marcasite, pyrite, sphalerite, etc.)
- Quartz geodes
The Best Places To Find Geodes in Iowa
Here are some of our favorite geode hunting areas in the state to start. We can only find what we’re looking for in a select few gem mining locations in Iowa. Even though some of these may not be widely known, they typically provide excellent options when we are looking.
The Des Moines River is one of the most important rivers in Iowa, flowin’ over 500 miles from southern Minnesota through northern Iowa and into Missouri. It’s a beautiful river, and it plays an important role in the economy and culture of Iowa. The river is surrounded by diverse landscapes, from rolling hills to flat plains, and it’s known for its striking natural beauty.
The terrain around the Des Moines River is characterized by deep canyons and cliffs, with dramatic drop-offs and steep inclines. There are also plenty of shallow areas where you can wade in and cool off on a hot summer day.
Before bringing anything home, make sure you’ve read the State of Iowa’s most recent collecting regulations.
Where we found geodes in Des Moines River
We’ve found geodes in all area gravels and bars of the Des Moines River and its tributaries to the northwest.
The tools every geode hunter will need
When you're out looking for geodes having the right tools for the job is very important. 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 geode hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit 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 geode-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.
Hardin County is a beautiful and rugged county in the north-central part of Iowa. The county is known for its unique geological features, including dramatic bluffs and rock formations. The county’s terrain is hilly, with several steep ridges and valleys, and the county is home to several rivers and creeks, including the Iowa River and the Hardin Creek.
The county is known for its abundance of fossil-rich limestone formations, formed over millions of years through sedimentation and erosion. It’s also among Iowa’s best crystal hunting sites. Aside from this, Hardin County is also home to several parks and recreational areas, which allow you to explore the county’s unique geological features. So if you’re lookin’ for a rugged and beautiful destination in Iowa, check out Hardin County.
Where we found geodes in Hardin County
- Eldora area stream gravels and quarries
- Steamboat river along Iowa river
- Stream and river gravels in Union area
- In Hubbard area, in brown limestone formations
- In Buckeye area, east-southeast of Point Pleasant, along both banks of the creek where it empties into the South Fork of the Iowa River
- In Gifford area, collect upstream on both sides as you cross the South Fork of the Iowa River, all the way up to the Wilke area.
- In Sherman area, 0.25 miles south on a rural road to Honey Creek, collect on each side on Story County border
The Keokuk Geode Beds are one of the most famous geode hunting locations in the United States, in the southeastern part of Iowa. The area is known for its abundant geodes in the limestone formations along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The geodes in this area are often quite large and well-formed, with beautiful crystal formations and intricate designs.
The terrain of the Keokuk Geode Beds is characterized by steep bluffs and deep canyons, with rugged hillsides and dense forests. The geology of the Keokuk Geode Beds is pretty unique. The geodes in the area were formed over millions of years through a combination of sedimentation, erosion, and volcanic activity. The limestone formations in the area are full of unique fossils, and the geodes often contain minerals like quartz, calcite, and amethyst. The Keokuk Geode Beds are definitely worth checking out when you’re hunting for geodes!
Where we found geodes in the Keokuk Geode Beds
Geodes can be found throughout the Keokuk Geode Beds, which are located in southeastern Iowa. The geodes are typically found in the limestone formations along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. When hunting for geodes in the Keokuk Geode Beds, it’s important to remember that the geodes are often hidden beneath the rock’s surface.
Lee County is a beautiful and rugged county in southeastern Iowa, known for its unique geological features and stunning natural beauty. The county’s terrain is hilly, with several steep ridges and valleys, and the county is home to several rivers and creeks, including the Des Moines and the Mississippi Rivers.
The geology of Lee County is pretty unique. The county is home to several rock formations full of unique fossils and is famous for its abundance of geodes. The county is also known for its ancient limestone formations, formed over millions of years through sedimentation and erosion.
Where we found geodes in Lee County
- In Keokuk area, all local gravels, bars, and tributaries to the northwest of the Des Moines River
- In Keokuk area, travel along Fifth Street south to the Union Carbide facility, collect west of the facility
- Area pits and quarries at Donnellson
Van Buren County is a beautiful and rugged county in southeastern Iowa, known for its unique geological features and stunning natural beauty. The county’s terrain is hilly, with several steep ridges and valleys, and the county is home to several rivers and creeks, including the Des Moines River and the Fox River.
The geology of Van Buren County is pretty unique. The county has several rock formations full of unique fossils, including trilobites, brachiopods, and other prehistoric sea creatures. The county is also known for its ancient limestone formations, formed over millions of years through sedimentation and erosion.
Where we found geodes in Van Buren County
- In all area gravels at Farmington
- In all area stream beds at Farmington
- In Bentonsport area, south near the bridge
- In Vernon area, south of the city, geodiferous outcroppings downstream from the bridge area along Bear Creek
Other Great Places To Dig For Iowa Geodes
We’ll list the other places we’ve found after mentioning our favorites so you won’t have difficulty searching for geodes. We’ll give recommendations for places we’ve found in each county before moving on to more broad areas.
Our recommendations by county
|Black Hawk||Around the Waterloo area, along the gravel quarry on Burton Avenue and the Cedar River|
|Buchanan||In the creek beds and gravels in the Brandon area|
|Butler||In the New Albioin area to the Cedar River, travel 8.2 miles upstream west to the mouth of the West Fork|
|Dallas||Dallas Center area, collect in gravel operations 7 miles east, then 1.25 miles north|
|Dallas||Dawson area, 1.9 miles south on a rural road to the Elm Branch Bridge, then travel downstream for 6 miles to the branch’s mouth at the Raccoon River|
|Dallas||Linden area, tributary of Mosquito Creek, collect upstream north for 3 miles|
|Des Moines||County wide|
|Des Moines||All area creek gravels in Burlington|
|Franklin||In Chapin area, north of Sheffield|
|Franklin||All area quarries and fields in Sheffield|
|Hardin||At Eldora area stream gravels and quarries|
|Hardin||At Steamboat river along Iowa river|
|Hardin||In stream and river gravels in Union area|
|Hardin||In Hubbard area, in brown limestone formations|
|Hardin||In Buckeye area, east-southeast of Point Pleasant, along both banks of the creek where it empties into the South Fork of the Iowa River|
|Hardin||In Gifford area, collect upstream on both sides as you cross the South Fork of the Iowa River, all the way up to the Wilke area|
|Hardin||In Sherman area, 0.25 miles south on a rural road to Honey Creek, collect on each side on Story County border|
|Henry||In Mud Creek stream bed at Lowell area|
|Henry||In limestone exposures at Mount Pleasant|
|Johnson||Coralville area bluffs|
|Johnson||Iowa City area stream bluffs|
|Lee||Area pits and quarries at Donnellson|
|Lee||Keokuk area, all local gravels, bars, and tributaries of the Des Moines River to the northwest|
|Lee||Keokuk area, travel along Fifth Street south to the Union Carbide facility, and then gather west of the facility|
|Story||Skunk river, in the gravels between the towns of Rome and Lowell|
|Story||Area quarries in McCallsburg|
|Van Buren||County wide|
|Van Buren||All area gravels in Farmington|
|Van Buren||All area stream beds in Farmington|
|Van Buren||In Bentonsport area, south near the bridge|
|Van Buren||In Vernon area, south of the city, geodiferous outcroppings downstream from the bridge area along Bear Creek|
Additional areas you should try
You’ll see that we refer to “county wide” quite a bit in our suggestions. The area to hunt for geodes in Iowa is vast, so we want to help you in your search. You should look into these significant Iowa areas where geodes are frequently found.
Quarries are one of the best places for geode hunters to score big. These man-made sites are where rocks are extracted for construction and landscaping purposes, and they can be found all over the world. But what makes them so great for geode hunters is that the process of quarrying exposes the inner layers of rocks, including geodes, making them much easier to spot and collect. Plus, quarries are often located in areas with rich mineral deposits, making them a prime location for finding geodes and other minerals.
Another reason why quarries are a great location for geode hunters is that they’re often open to the public. Many quarries offer tours or allow visitors to hunt for geodes and other rocks, making it a fun and educational activity for families and rock enthusiasts alike. Plus, quarry operators often keep a pile of discarded rocks and debris on-site, which can be a treasure trove for geode hunters looking for specimens.
Rivers and riverbanks
Rivers and riverbanks are some of the best places to find geodes, and it’s no wonder why. The constant flow of water erodes the soil and sediment, exposing the rocks and minerals beneath, including geodes. This natural process makes rivers and riverbanks a prime location for geode hunters looking for specimens.
Another reason rivers and riverbanks are great for finding geodes is that they’re often in remote and untouched areas, away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. This means that the rocks and minerals are less likely to have been disturbed or picked over by other rockhounds, making it more likely for you to find something truly special.
Roadcuts might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of geode hunting, but they’re actually a great location to find some real treasures. When a new road is being built or an existing road is being expanded, large chunks of earth are removed, exposing the rocks and minerals underneath.
Roadcuts are great for geode hunting because they often cut through layers of limestone and dolomite rock formations, which are known to produce some of the most stunning geodes. The exposed rock face makes it easy to spot the geodes, which can be nestled in the nooks and crannies of the rock or scattered throughout the rubble.
Streams and creeks
Streams and creeks are a hidden gem for geode hunters. The constant flow of water can erode the soil and rocks, exposing the hidden geodes. These water sources are usually located in remote and untouched areas, away from the crowds, making them a great place for finding geodes other rockhounds have not picked over.
Geodes found in streams and creeks can have a unique appearance compared to those found in other locations. They are often polished and smoothed by the constant water flow, giving them a beautiful, glass-like appearance. The water can also wash away dirt and debris, making it easier to spot the geodes.
Common Geode-Hunting Questions
It’s important to answer to frequently asked questions about geodes in Iowa, like the following:
Where can you find amethyst geodes in Iowa?
Although not being natively found in Iowa, amethyst geodes may be bought in many of the state’s rock shops. Moreover, keep an eye out for sellers of many amethyst geodes at different local rock shows and exhibitions.
Is it illegal to collect geodes in Iowa?
As long as you follow local regulations, collecting geodes is legal in Iowa. If you’re in a public area, abide by the local laws that may be in force. When you’re on private land, make sure you have permission to collect.
The Best Places To Buy Geodes In Iowa
Not everyone enjoys spending hours outdoors looking for geodes. Sometimes, all you want is something attractive to look at and admire while working in the office or as an addition to your collection at home.
- Chrissy’s Creek – 2564 Perkins Rd, Danville, IA 52623, United States
- Amazon – We learned that geodes are widely available on Amazon. For those who would prefer to do it themselves, there are complete kits available that contain geodes to crack open.
- Honey Creek Gems – 1228 Washington St, Davenport, IA 52804, United States
- Hound Dog Rock Shop – 115 Lombard St, Clarence, IA 52216, United States
- Little Rock and Gem Shop – 3002 N Brady St, Davenport, IA 52803, United States
- The Noble Stone – 4510 220th Trail, Amana, IA 52203, United States
Additional places to find geodes in nearby states
Check out our guides for nearby states if you’ve already tried all of our suggestions above or if you’re planning a trip outside of the state:
- Geodes in Illinois
- Geodes in Minnesota
- Geodes in Missouri
- Geodes in Nebraska
- Geodes in South Dakota
- Geodes in Wisconsin
If you have any recommendations for our list, please leave a comment below!