The 31 Proven Options To Find North Dakota Petrified Wood in 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

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The 31 Proven Options To Find North Dakota Petrified Wood in 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


You can find petrified wood in North Dakota in various places, where the ancient trees once thrived. The region’s unique geology creates the perfect conditions for this natural wonder to occur.

It’s an exciting place for rock hounds, nature lovers, or anyone interested in discovering the incredible stories that rocks can tell us about the history of our planet.

Whether you are a seasoned collector or new to this fascinating hobby, North Dakota’s landscapes offer an unforgettable adventure!

What Is North Dakota Petrified Wood

petrified wood slab displaying tree rings and various mineral colors
Petrified wood provided by SequoiasRoots

Petrified wood is an awesome natural wonder. It starts off as a tree that lived and grew, maybe even millions of years ago. Over time, the wood gets buried under dirt and mud. Slowly, water filled with minerals seeps into the wood.

These minerals start to replace the tree’s cells. The wood doesn’t rot away because it’s protected underground. Instead, it turns to stone, keeping the shape and details of the original tree.

You can often find this stone-treed wonder in places that were once forests and got covered with sediment like ash from volcanoes or mud from floods.

Today, dry and rocky places like deserts and badlands are great spots to look. These areas show layers of the Earth’s past, giving us hints about where ancient forests once stood.

The types of petrified wood found in North Dakota

Rockhounding can be a fun adventure, but it’s important to first make sure that you can identify petrified wood pieces that you might come across. You can also check out the types of petrified wood that you might find in North Dakota:

Teredo petrified wood

Teredo petrified wood is a super cool type of fossilized wood.way back in time, wood-eating clams called Teredo bored into driftwood. These clams created long, tunnel-like holes as they munched their way through the wood.

Over time, the same process that turns wood into stone, or petrifies it, filled these tunnels with minerals. So, instead of just having solid stone that looks like wood, you get petrified wood with lots of tiny, wormy tunnels inside.

Teredo petrified wood is also North Dakota’s state fossil!

Silicified wood

When trees long ago fell and got buried, water carrying the mineral silica (often from volcanic ash) would flow around the buried wood. Over time, this silica seeped into the wood, replacing its original structure bit by bit.

The wood’s details, like rings and bark patterns, are kept intact.

The end result is wood that has turned into stone, thanks to silica! Silicified wood is often really shiny and can have a range of colors, from browns and blacks to even bright colors like red or green.

Agatized wood

Agatized wood is an exciting type of petrified wood that’s a favorite among rock lovers. This wood has been replaced with agate, a beautiful mineral that forms in many colors.

When a tree becomes buried under the ground, the wood starts to decay slowly. But if minerals like agate are present in the groundwater, something amazing happens.

The agate begins to replace the wood’s organic material, preserving the original shape of the tree.

What’s really cool about agatized wood is how it looks. Agate can be translucent, shiny, and colorful. So, the wood might end up with swirls of various colors. You can still see the tree’s rings, bark, and other details, but now they’re made of agate.

How We Found Petrified Wood in North Dakota
Petrified wood can be pretty tough to find in our state if you aren’t strategic about your search. We’ve compiled a list of great locations where you can find it from a number of proven sources. These are the main inputs we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience of our team
  • Input from a variety of local rockhounds and rockhound groups
  • The difficulty in accessing a location
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both the experienced and newbie hunters who are just starting out

Using these inputs we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding petrified wood for our collections!

Rock pick being used

The tools every petrified wood hunter will need

When you're out looking for petrified wood having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. 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 petrified wood 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 petrified wood-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.

The Best Places To Find Petrified Wood In North Dakota

Get ready for an adventure in the world of North Dakota rockhounding! One of the coolest treasures you can find here is petrified wood, ancient trees turned to stone over millions of years. See our top recommended locations below:

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.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

view of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park from the South Unit

If you’re curious about where to find petrified wood, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is a gem of a place! Spread out over three separate areas, the park covers over 70,000 acres.

The park’s landscape is a mix of rolling hills, rugged badlands, and peaceful prairies. These badlands are formed by erosion, which has created layered rock formations, deep canyons, and tall bluffs.

Also, the park has coal veins, colorful rocks, and even a petrified forest. These ancient, stone trees are evidence of the swamps and forests that were here millions of years ago.

Getting to Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a breeze. It’s right off Interstate 94, making it easy to reach by car. Once you’re there, you can explore scenic drives, hike on lovely trails, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views.

You might even spot bison, wild horses, or other wildlife that call this park home!

Before you go, make sure that you check with the Bureau of Land Management North Dakota Field Office to familiarize yourself with any rules and regulations that you’ll have to follow while rockhounding.

Where we found petrified wood at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

In the park, the South Unit is the place to go. There’s a special trail called the Petrified Forest Loop. This trail takes you through areas rich with North Dakota petrified wood.

As you walk, you’ll see ancient trees that have turned to stone over millions of years. These stone trees are a mix of colors, from deep browns to bright reds.

Cannonball River

Cannonball River with grassy riverbanks and a concrete bridge

The Cannonball River is a fascinating spot in North Dakota! This river starts in the western part of the state and flows eastward until it joins the Missouri River.

Along its journey, it winds through diverse landscapes, from rolling prairies to rugged terrains.

One cool thing about the Cannonball River is its geology. The river has carved its path through layers of earth that have been around for ages. These layers reveal colorful rocks and even fossils from long ago. 

The terrain around the Cannonball River is a mix of grassy plains and eroded hills. It’s a treat for the eyes and offers many opportunities for hiking and exploring.

Getting to the Cannonball River is pretty simple. There are roads and highways that lead to various points along the river. And once you’re there, you can enjoy fishing, camping, or just taking in the beauty of the landscape.

Where we found petrified wood along Cannonball River

In Grant County, specifically the New Leipzig area, start southwest towards the Cannonball River at the Hettinger County border. Move downstream southeast on both banks until you reach the mouth of the Cedar River.

In Hettinger County, near the New England area, you’ll want to explore upstream on both sides of the Cannonball River until you hit the Slope County border. Still in Hettinger, around the Regent area, begin your search 2 miles northeast.

Then, go downstream along both sides of a tributary of the Cannonball River and check out the adjacent hills. This leads you all the way to the mouth of this stream where it meets the Cannonball River.

Over in Slope County, near the Amidon area, collect along both sides downstream to the Hettinger County border. If you’re feeling adventurous, venture upstream towards the headwaters.

Stark County

red brick building in Richardton, Stark County with trees and a grassy lawn

Stark County in North Dakota is a treasure for nature and rock lovers! Located in the southwestern part of the state, this county boasts a mix of landscapes.

From wide-open prairies to rolling hills, it’s a treat for the eyes. The terrain is a combination of grasslands, farmlands, and some rugged areas, perfect for hiking and exploring.

Geologically speaking, Stark County has layers of rocks and sediments from ancient times. These layers give hints of prehistoric oceans, swamps, and shifting landscapes.

For rockhounds, it’s a playground! You can find fossils, petrified wood, and other geological wonders that tell tales of a time long gone.

Major roads like Interstate 94 run right through Stark County, making it easily accessible by car.

The city of Dickinson, which is the county seat, is a popular stop for travelers. It offers amenities and serves as a gateway to the natural beauty of the region.

Where we found petrified wood in Stark County

In the Dickinson area, drive 6 miles north on SR-22. You might discover petrified wood on both sides of the road, especially as you reach the Dunn County border. 

Head over to the Richardton area and start collecting. Travel 8.5 miles south on SR-8, and you’ll find treasures on both sides of the road, all the way to the Heart River.

And if you follow the Heart River, both upstream and downstream, there’s more petrified wood to be discovered lining the riverbanks.

From the Heart River, continue your search south all the way to the Hettinger County border, with plenty of chances to uncover fossilized wood.

Lastly, close to Dickinson, there’s a large gravel pit. This spot is known for revealing some fantastic petrified wood pieces.

Little Missouri River

islands in the Little Missouri River with a grazing bison

The Little Missouri River in North Dakota is a gem for those who love nature’s beauty. This river flows through the western part of the state, creating an inviting path through the Badlands.

Its winding waters stretch over a series of valleys, rugged cliffs, and breathtaking plateaus. It’s like the river drew a line through some of the most scenic landscapes North Dakota has to offer.

Geologically, the Little Missouri River has carved its way through layers of rock, revealing Earth’s history. These rocks showcase ancient times when seas covered the region.

The riverbed and its banks are teeming with a mix of colorful sedimentary formations. For rockhounds, this area offers opportunities to spot fascinating fossils and unique stone patterns.

There are many roads leading to different sections of the river. So, whether you’re setting out on a hiking adventure, keen to see what rocks you can find, or simply want a serene spot to relax, the Little Missouri River in North Dakota awaits you!

Where we found petrified wood along Little Missouri River

In the Watford City area, comb both banks of the river downstream until you hit the Dunn County border. If you’re feeling adventurous, also explore upstream, especially above the southwest boundary of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Unit.

Over in the Marmarth area in Slope County, journey northward along both banks of the Little Missouri River.

Lastly, in Billings County, around the Medora area, direct your search northward along the east bank of the Little Missouri River. This stretch is known to house some great petrified wood specimens.

With these locations in mind, your rockhounding adventure by the Little Missouri River promises to be both fun and rewarding!


grassy slopes overlooking Mandan, North Dakota

Mandan is a captivating city located just across the Missouri River from Bismarck, the state capital of North Dakota. Nestled on the banks of the river, Mandan serves as a gateway to some truly remarkable landscapes.

The terrain around this city showcases rolling plains that stretch as far as the eye can see, meeting the shimmering waters of the Missouri River.

Geologically, Mandan lies in an area rich with sedimentary rock layers, telling tales of ancient seas and prehistoric times.

For rockhounds, there’s a chance to discover fossils and unique stone formations, making it a haven for those curious about Earth’s past.

Reaching Mandan is a breeze. It’s conveniently connected by major roads like I-94, which runs right through the city. 

The nearby Bismarck Airport also provides easy air access for those traveling from afar. Once in Mandan, there’s a blend of natural beauty and modern amenities, with parks, trails, and historic sites waiting to be explored.

Where we found petrified wood in Mandan

Head over to gravel pits in the Mandan area. These pits have a wealth of stones and among them, you can often spot chunks of petrified wood. As you search through the gravel, look for pieces with wood-like patterns and a stony feel.

Other Great Places To Find North Dakota Petrified Wood

slice of petrified wood showing the texture of the tree bark
Petrified wood provided by FossilsMeteorites

There are plenty of other spots that you can explore to look for petrified wood:

County Location
Adams County Cedar River
Billings County Medora Badlands
Billings County Canyons to the south of Medora
Burleigh County Cannonball Formation in the Bismarck area
Dunn County Marshall area
Dunn County Taylor
Golden Valley County Beach
Grant County Delta between the Cannonball River and Decar River in the Raleigh area
Hettinger County Mott area
Hettinger County Hills flanking the Cannonball River in the Regent area
McKenzie County Tobacco Garden Creek in the Watford City area
McKenzie County Searing
Morton County Glen Ullin
Pembina County Abandoned limestone quarry
Pembina County Deltas of the Pembina, Elk and Sheyenne rivers
Ramsey County Devils Lake shorelines
Ramsey County Devils Lake dry-land gravel beds
Ramsey County Dry Lake shorelines in Webster
Ramsey County Sweetwater Lake shorelines in Webster
Ramsey County James River and Sheyenne River gravel bars
Ransom County Anselm area
Ransom County Sheyenne River
Rolette County Dunseith area gravel pits
Slope County Amidon
Ward County Minot area gravel pits
Williams County Little Muddy River in the Appam area

General Areas You Should Try

slice of petrified wood showing the texture of the tree bark
Petrified wood provided by EarthsAncientArt

You won’t need to go too far off the beaten path if you want to look for North Dakota petrified wood. These areas are known to have petrified wood just waiting to be found:

Petrified forests

Petrified forests are like nature’s time capsules! They’re places where trees from millions of years ago became fossilized, turning into stone. This process happens when trees get buried quickly by things like volcanic ash or sediment.

For collectors, a petrified forest is a dream spot. It’s like walking through a museum where the exhibits are still in the ground! Each piece of petrified wood holds a story of the ancient world, and finding one is like connecting with Earth’s distant past.

Now, if you’re in North Dakota, you’re in luck. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to its own petrified forest. This means you can see firsthand these incredible rocks in their natural setting.

So, for anyone passionate about petrified wood, forests like the one in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are not just places to find treasures but are also places where the wonder of Earth’s history comes alive.

Rivers and riverbanks

Learning how to find petrified wood can lead you on some awesome adventures in nature’s most fascinating spots! These spots include rivers and riverbanks.

Over millions of years, water has flowed and eroded the land. As it moves, the river picks up and carries away rocks, minerals, and, yes, pieces of petrified wood.

When the water slows down, these treasures get deposited along the riverbanks. This makes these areas a hotspot for discovery!

The action of water helps in another cool way. As it tumbles rocks, it often polishes them, revealing the beautiful patterns and colors hidden inside.

So, when you’re searching along a river, you might find pieces of petrified wood that already look shiny and polished.

Lake shores

Lake shores are like big outdoor treasure chests for those who love to search for petrified wood! Lakes, just like rivers, have a history of moving water, waves, and shifting sands.

The flow of water can uncover and bring to the surface hidden gems like petrified wood.

Over time, the water and sand can wear down the soil and rocks, revealing the fossilized remains of ancient trees.

But there’s more to it! As the water levels in lakes rise and fall, different parts of the shoreline get exposed. This changing landscape means that new spots and treasures can be discovered on every visit.

Lakes often have calm spots and areas where less foot traffic happens. This gives collectors a better chance to find untouched pieces. So, with a keen eye and a bit of patience, collectors can have a field day searching lake shores.

Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In North Dakota

Learn the answers to the most common questions about petrified wood:

How old is petrified wood in North Dakota?

Petrified wood in North Dakota is like a time capsule, taking us back millions of years! Most of this fossilized wood dates back to the Paleocene epoch, which means it’s between 55 to 65 million years old.

Back in the day, North Dakota was covered with dense forests. Over time, trees fell and got buried under sediment. With the right mix of minerals, water, and time, the wood’s organic material slowly got replaced by minerals.

When you pick up a piece of petrified wood from North Dakota, you’re holding a relic from a time when dinosaurs had just become extinct, and the age of mammals was starting. It’s a real-life connection to an ancient world!

Can you find petrified palm wood in North Dakota?

Petrified palm wood is a really fascinating type of fossilized wood, but I have to tell you that it’s not something you’re likely to find in North Dakota. Instead, petrified palm wood is more commonly found in places like Texas and Louisiana.

In North Dakota, the geology and ancient climate were different, so the types of trees that grew there were not the palm trees we might think of today.

The petrified wood you might find in North Dakota comes from ancient forests that were home to different types of trees, like cypress and redwood, but not palms.

The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In North Dakota

glass shelves in a store displaying rocks and minerals
Gnome’s Nook

If you’re not up for exploring, you can still get your hands on a nice piece of petrified wood. You can find some great specimens in these shops:

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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