The 12 Prime North Dakota Rockhounding Sites In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

The 12 Prime North Dakota Rockhounding Sites In 2024

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD


North Dakota is the perfect place to go rock-hounding! The state provides a wealth of options for those who have a penchant for discovering unusual and gorgeous rocks and minerals. North Dakota is a rockhound’s paradise, from the vast Badlands to the picturesque river valleys.

The range of discoveries you can make while rockhounding in North Dakota is one of its most fantastic attractions. The state is rich in geological wonders, from colorful agates to other glistening minerals. Each discovery sparks a unique sensation of thrill and wonder, limitless possibilities.

North Dakota stands out for having so many great spots for rockhounding. Many locations are accessible to the public, and the state is well-known for this. So, get ready to discover some fantastic minerals in North Dakota’s breathtaking scenery!

How We FoundThe Best Places For Rockhounding in North Dakota
We spent a lot of time putting together the list of which of the many options for North Dakota rockhounding we were going to recommend. We wanted to have a nice variety of locations for experienced and novice rockhounds in a variety of settings. Here are the main factors we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience and understanding of our team
  • Input from multiple local rockhounds and rockhound groups
  • The accessibility of the various locations
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both experienced rockhounds and those who are just starting out

Using these weights we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding new rocks, gems, and minerals for our collections!

What You Can Find Rockhounding In North Dakota

A superb unique raw selenite slab with an intrinsic natural pattern on its surface
Selenite photo provided by and available for purchase at KnKMinerals

Due to the great diversity of rocks and minerals found in North Dakota, we were unable to list every potential specimen The most well-known and uncommon specimens that rockhounds look for in the state are the following:

Rare rocks and minerals found in North Dakota

More common desirable rocks, minerals, and gems found here

In-depth guides to finding specific types of rocks in North Dakota

You can use several of our recommendations throughout the state to locate the specimen you want.

On our list, there are more than 3,000 exceptional rockhounds near you. Read this article to find out more about the rocks and minerals found in North Dakota.

The Best Places To Find Rocks and Minerals in North Dakota

A gorgeous calcite crystal cluster with an irregular and unique shape

Here are some of our favorite starting points for rockhounding in North Dakota. Despite having many options, we concentrated on our top picks. The magnificent rocks and minerals in these locations can entice you.

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.

Cannonball River

A stretch of the Cannonball River with mountains at the background

North Dakota’s Cannonball River is a secret treasure. This river has a deep history and offers a treasure trove of geological treasures while nestled among the state’s gorgeous surroundings. The river, which runs through the gorgeous Cannonball Ranch, is well-known for having various rocks and minerals, making it an excellent place for rock-hounding adventures.

Native American tribes have lived here for a very long time, and the riverbanks still bear the remains of their old civilizations. You might find a wide array of minerals as you explore the riverbed. There’s always something fascinating to learn, thanks to the area’s unique geology.

Your experience will be enhanced by the peaceful flow of the river, which is bordered by picturesque cliffs and rich vegetation. The Cannonball River in North Dakota promises a lovely tour loaded with fascinating geological finds and a connection to the region’s rich history, whether you’re an expert rockhound or a curious novice.

What you can find there

The huge expanse of Cannonball River is home to many minerals, including agate, chalcedony, jasper, and selenite.

Rock pick being used

The tools every rockhound will need

When you're out looking for rocks and minerals 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 rockhounds 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 rockhounding 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.

Cottonwood Lake

A vibrant and picturesque view of the Cottonwood Lake with tranquil waters and blue skies

Formed initially due to glacial activity, Cottonwood Lake has a rich geological heritage. The surrounding area boasts a mix of sedimentary and igneous rocks, making it a prime rock-hounding location. The ever-changing landscape of the lake, shaped by centuries of natural forces, ensures that each rockhounding excursion holds the potential for exciting discoveries.

Beyond its rockhounding potential, Cottonwood Lake offers a tranquil and picturesque setting for outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounded by rolling prairies and woodlands, it provides a peaceful retreat where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

The lake’s calm waters are perfect for boating or fishing, adding to the allure of this hidden gem. So whether you’re an experienced rockhound or a curious beginner, add Cottonwood Lake to your list of must-visit rockhounding destinations in North Dakota.

What you can find there

The most prevalent mineral specimens at Cottonwood Lake is halite.

Missouri River

A mesmerizing scenic view along the historic Missouri River where you can find various rocks and mineral specimens

Flowing majestically through the state, Missouri River holds a rich history and offers many opportunities for rock-hounding adventures. With its diverse geological formations and the potential for finding a wide range of rocks and minerals, the Missouri River is an ideal place to unleash your inner rockhound.

Aside from its rockhounding potential, the Missouri River offers a breathtaking backdrop for outdoor adventures. The scenic beauty of the river valley, with its towering bluffs and expansive vistas, creates a captivating environment that enhances the thrill of rockhounding.

As you explore the riverbanks and sandbars, you might stumble upon hidden treasures such as colorful agates, fossils, and even rare gemstones. The ever-changing currents of the Missouri River continually expose new geological formations, ensuring that every rockhounding excursion holds the promise of unique discoveries.

What you can find there

Among the minerals at the Missouri River are agate, chalcedony, and jasper.

Sheyenne River

A lush and vibrant cluster of trees alongside of the Sheyenne River

The gorgeous Sheyenne River flows smoothly through the state’s picturesque landscapes. It presents a rare fusion of geological wonders and natural beauty. The river offers the perfect location for rockhounding explorations because of its geological structures and long history.

As you explore the riverbanks, you might stumble upon artifacts from these ancient civilizations, adding an exciting dimension to your rock-hounding experience. The stunning scenery along the Sheyenne River adds to the whole adventure. You will be surrounded by undulating hills, bright greenery, and the calming sound of running water as you search through the river’s beaches.

What you can find there

Sheyenne River is where quartz minerals are primarily found.

Turtle Mountains

A beautiful view of the famous Turtle Mountains which houses different rock and mineral specimens

The Turtle Mountains offer a fascinating location for your rock-hounding adventures. These ancient hills, tucked away amid the state’s picturesque scenery, are full of geological marvels with a rich history.

You’ll come across a range of rocks and minerals due to the area’s unique geology. The hills are a geological playground waiting to be discovered, providing rockhounds with countless opportunities.

The Turtle Mountains offer a gorgeous setting for outdoor experiences in addition to the thrill of rockhounding. The quiet setting is conducive to exploration because of the undulating hills, lush forests, and serene lakes. The splendor of the Turtle Mountains enhances your experience, whether you’re exploring the trails or looking for rocks in creek beds.

What you can find there

Quartz is one of the lovely specimens that may be discovered here at Turtle Mountains.

Our Other Favorite Spots Around North Dakota

A wonderful aerial view of the Yellowstone River flowing in between mountains and hills

Some beautiful and uncommon rocks and minerals can be found in North Dakota. For more information on finding uncommon specimens, look into the numerous options we’ve included below.

Rockhounding sites in Northeastern North Dakota

Northeastern North Dakota is a haven for rock-hounding enthusiasts, offering many opportunities to discover unique rocks and minerals. With its diverse geology and rich natural resources, this region presents an exciting playground for rockhounds of all levels of experience.

The area is known for its abundant deposits of agates, ranging from the vibrant Lake Agates to the elusive Fairburn Agates. These beautifully banded gemstones can be found scattered along the region’s riverbeds and gravel pits.

Location Minerals & Rocks
Tongue River Calcite
Devil’s Lake Agate, Jasper

Rockhounding sites in Northwestern North Dakota

Northwestern North Dakota is a treasure trove for rockhounding enthusiasts, offering many exciting opportunities to uncover remarkable rocks and minerals. Rockhounds looking for unusual finds have the perfect spot in this area, which is famed for its rocky landscapes and distinctive geological formations.

The region is famous for its sapphires, with the picturesque Rock Creek area being a renowned hotspot for sapphire hunting. These vibrant blue gemstones are in various colors and sizes, making each find a thrilling experience.

Location Minerals & Rocks
Mouse River Quartz
Yellowstone River Agate, Jasper

Don’t let the challenge of differentiating rocks and minerals deter you. Our comprehensive guides provide the tools you need to identify and appreciate their unique characteristics confidently:

North Dakota Rockhounding Clubs

Two ladies at the front of house of the Central Dakota Gem and Mineral Society rock show

In addition to providing several advantages and establishing a feeling of community among rockhounds, rockhounding groups are an excellent resource for hobbyists. Members of rockhounding clubs have access to a vast network of knowledgeable people willing to offer their expertise, advice, and preferred spots for rockhounding.

Field trips are frequently planned by these clubs, allowing rockhounds to go to new places and find rare specimens with like-minded people. Being a club member also gives members access to workshops, talks, and exhibitions, which helps them learn more about geology and build their collections.

Rockhounding clubs are a great place to learn, meet people, and go on thrilling rockhounding experiences because of the camaraderie and shared love of rocks and minerals.

Rockhounding clubs in North Dakota worth checking out

North Dakota Rockhounding Laws And Regulations

Rockhounding and collecting rocks and minerals in North Dakota is legal and can be a rewarding hobby. However, it’s essential for rockhounds to be aware of and adhere to all local and state laws regarding collection.

North Dakota has regulations to protect natural resources, public lands, and cultural heritage sites, ensuring their preservation for future generations.

Rockhounds should familiarize themselves with the North Dakota Geological Survey (NDGS) rules and regulations governing the areas they plan to explore. Some public lands may restrict rockhounding or require permits for certain activities.

Respecting these guidelines to preserve the environment and maintaining a harmonious relationship with landowners and the community is crucial.

Our Favorite Rock And Mineral Shops In North Dakota

Crystal Rock Healing rock shop in North Dakota where an abundance of rocks and minerals are available for purchase

Not everyone enjoys spending hours outside looking for minerals. Some individuals find it more convenient to purchase uncommon minerals from reputable rock dealers. The best mineral and rock shops in North Dakota stock many unique rocks and minerals.

Additional Places To Rockhound 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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