Illinois does not have the reputation of being a good state for rockhounding, but it does have plenty of locations to check out with worthwhile specimens to seek out. Illinois produces more fluorite (or fluorspar) than any other state, and the western part of the state contains part of the world-famous Keokuk geode beds to which collectors have flocked for decades. Certain parts of the state such as the Mazon River are also well known for their fossils. The relatively recent glacial activity of the area and proximity to the Great Lakes means that there are also many locations where rockhounds can find agates, most notably the prized Lake Superior Agates.
The best places to rockhound in Illinois are the Keokuk geode beds near Hamilton, the banks and tributaries of the Mississippi River near Niota, the gravels of the Mazon River, and the many regional quarries and mining dumps. Illinois is particularly famous for its fluorite and geode specimens.
|State Fossil||Tully Monster|
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Illinois which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of beaches, old mining prospects, streams, and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites. For additional reading, I’d highly recommend these books you can find on Amazon:
Please remember that rock collecting locations are constantly changing. Specimens may become depleted from other collectors, the location may have been built on or altered, locality information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed hands. Though there are many locations listed here, this list is far from exhaustive. A location’s listing here is not a guarantee of accuracy. Be safe, never go underground, and make sure to get permission from the landowner to search for and collect specimens.
If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page which contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.
Rockhounding Locations in Illinois
NOTE: All the locations listed in these tables are clickable, and will take you to the location on Google Maps.
For ease of discussion, I’ll break the rockhounding locations up into two regions – the Chicago area & Northern Illinois, and Southern Illinois
Northern Illinois & Chicago Area Rockhounding Locations
The best rockhounding sites in Northern Illinois are the shores and tributaries of the Mississippi River near Hamilton, Nauvoo, and Niota, the gravels of the Mazon River, and the many regional quarries and mining dumps near Braidwood, Coal City, and Galena. Many varieties of rocks and minerals can be found, but most notably the area near Hamilton is part of the world-famous Keokuk geode beds, where many collectors flock to find their own geodes.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Rapatee Strip Mine||Pyritized Gastropods|
|Mazon River, in gravels & banks||Fossils|
|Coal City, area mine dumps||Concretions with fossils|
|East Brooklyn, area mine dumps||Marcasite, Pyrite|
|Hamilton, area gravels||Agate, Jasper, Geodes (Chalcedony)|
|Dallas City||Geodes (Chalcopyrite, Calcite, Malachite)|
|Hamilton, gravels S of Keokuk Bridge||Geodes|
|Hamilton Quarry, top strata||Geodes (Marcasite, Pyrite, Calcite, Sphalerite)|
|Crystal Glen Creek, exposures||Geodes (Aragonite, Barite, Calcite, Dolomite, Goethite, Pyrite, Quartz, Selenite, etc.)|
|Nauvoo, area gravels, streams||Geodes|
|Niota, area gravels, streams, pits, etc.||Fossils, Geodes|
|Tyson Creek, 2 mi. S of Niota||Geodes|
|Spillman Creek||Geodes (Calcite, Pyrite, Chalcedony, Sphalerite, Quartz)|
|Terre Haute, area gravels||Fossils (Mazon Creek fossils)|
|Cordova, banks of Miss. River||Agate|
|Bishop Hill, area||Agate, Jasper|
|North Aurora, Conco Quarry||Bornite, Calcite, Chalcopyrite, Pyrite|
|Galena, area mines||Cerussite, Galena|
Southern Illinois Rockhounding Locations
The best rockhounding sites in Southern Illinois area along the shores and tributaries of the Mississippi River near Hamilton and Thebes, as well as old mining dumps near Elizabethtown and Cave-In-Rock. A wide variety of rocks and minerals can be found in the area including agate, jasper, many geodes, calcite, and even diamond. Notably, Southern Illinois is famous for its fluorite and fluorspar mines.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Fayville, area stream gravels||Agate, Jasper, Diamond (rare)|
|Thebes, stream gravels & bars of Miss. River||Agate, Jasper|
|Miss. River, banks & shores of W Illinois||Geodes (chalcedony, amethyst, quartz)|
|Palestine, in area deposits||Siderite|
|Edwards County, in area deposits||Siderite|
|Cave-In-Rock, area mines||Barite, Calcite, Cerussite, Chalcopyrite, Fluorite, Galena, Pyrite, Smithsonite, Witherite|
|Minerva Mine No. 1||Alstonite, Barite, Strontianite|
|Rosiclare, area mines||Calcite crystals, Fluorite (blue, yellow, purple, clear), Sphalerite|
|9.5 mi. W of Mt. Vernon in creek gravels||Diamond (occasional)|
|McKee Creek, S. of Perry||Geodes (Calcite, Sphalerite)|
|Sparta, area mine dumps||Pyrite (disks), Fossils|
Where to Find Geodes in Illinois
The ideal place to search for geodes in Illinois is in the Keokuk geode beds in the western part of the state, particularly along the banks and tributaries of the Mississippi River near Hamilton. These geode beds are world-famous and contain countless geodes that have long been sought by collectors. The interiors of these geodes can be lined with many minerals including quartz, calcite, sphalerite, amethyst, and chalcedony.
Where to Find Flourite in Illinois
The best place to find fluorite (also known as fluorspar) in Illinois is in Hardin and Pope Counties at the extreme southern tip of the state. The most concentrated areas of fluorite production came from the Rosiclare District and deposits near Cave-In-Rock. The tailing and dumps of old mines in the area are known to contain fluorite specimens in several colors including blue, yellow, and purple.
Where to Find Agates in Illinois
Most streams and gravel beds across Illinois will have a chance of containing agates due to the geologically recent glacial activity. The best places to search for agates are near Fayville and Thebes in the bars and gravels of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The Bishop Hill area also produces nice agate specimens, as do the geodes beds near Hamilton.
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Illinois Rockhounding Laws & Regulations
One of the most common questions rockhounds have is whether or not they are allowed to collect at a certain location. It is the responsibility of each rockhound to obtain permission from a landowner to search and/or collect on a piece of property.
The ownership and status of land can and does change frequently, making it impossible to document accurate information on this page. However, I have compiled a list of resources here so that you may investigate and obtain permission for any locations (found here or elsewhere) for yourself.
Public Land Resources
I have written entire articles which cover the rockhounding laws and regulations for nearly every type of public land you can think of. I encourage you to check them out if you are curious about the legalities of rock and mineral collecting.
- Rockhounding on Public Land: Laws and Regulations
- Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
To determine what type of public land a particular location is on, I would recommend starting with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Illinois will have records of who owns each piece of property. Unfortunately for rockhounds, the law in most states prohibits them from publishing their names or contact information online. You can usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. In Illinois, I would recommend starting with the County Clerk’s office.
Sources & Further Reading
The locations and information contained in this article are primarily derived from academic papers, online resources, and other outside sources. If you would like to read some of the source material for yourself I have listed them below. The majority of these locations are my interpretation of Robert Beste’s A Location Guide for Rock Hounds in the United States. Other sources include: