Lake Superior Agates

Back to Superior Country Blog
June 19th, 2019

Growing up my younger sister was quite a little collector. She would regularly come home with pockets full of rocks and proudly show the family her treasures. Unique colors, neat shapes and interesting designs was how she would deem a rock worthy of her collection. Some of these rocks really were quite impressive actually, so impressive in fact that they piqued my dads interest enough that he went out and got a tumbler and rock cutter. This support in a little girls hobby quickly turned into one that took over the whole family – we became rock hunters!

Agates were of course the most sought after. The 6 of us would pile into the boat and take off from Nipigon onto Lake Superior to the treasure trove – Agate Island. After combing the beach we would wet our stones in the Lake to envision how they will look once polished. Some were large and often unassuming but once my dad cut them open it revealed a dazzling quartz cavern inside.

You begin to develop an eye and touch for seeking out these unique banded stones. I could pin point an agate anywhere I went and would often come home with pockets full myself. As we grew older, the family’s rock hunting waned though my dad never lost his love for geology and the practice of taking seemingly ordinary rocks and transforming them into precious shiny stones. My siblings and I still have our own cherished collections to this day.

Agates were formed in gas pockets within ancient lava flows. Throughout time with shifting grounds and weather exposure they were freed from the lava. Some distinguishing features of a Lake Superior agate are rich bands of red, orange, tan and yellow coloring caused by iron leached from rocks. They are often smoothed by waves and sand and have a sort of waxy feel.

The shores of Lake Superior is an agate hunters dream. Meandering along beaches sorting through stones and pebbles washed up on the shore is a favored activity of many doing the Circle Tour. There is a chance to find agates on any pebbly beach though often the most popular spots may have been picked over. One of the best times to find them is after a storm as Lake Superior waves roll in a fresh crop of stones to find. At least there’s one reason welcome a storm on your trip!

Here are a few popular places to find agates while visiting other must see attractions around Lake Superior – killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.

  • In Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN you will not only find the well-known falls within the park but also Agate Beach. As the name suggests this beach is a wealth of agate and its ever transforming beach and sandbar offer new findings anytime you may visit.
  • When visiting the historic Crisp Point Lighthouse in Paradise, MI be sure to also visit the surrounding shore as the area is known for agates.
  • Grand Marais, MI is not only home to the must see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore but to the Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum. It is the geology and rock enthusiast dream location.
  • Chequamegon Bay in Ashland, Wi can prove to be successful for agates. While there, also tour Ashland’s Historical Murals through the eight-block business district.
  • The aforementioned Agate Island Beach in Northwestern Ontario has been deemed one of the 7 natural wonder beaches in the world. Though only accessible by boat, this beach may be difficult to get to for Circle Tour travelers and at this point it is asked to not remove any stones from this beach. However it is an amazing place to visit and if you happen to have access to a boat, Slate Islands Provincial Park is also worth a visit to spot caribou and the lighthouse.