Nebraska is an often overlooked and underrated state when it comes to rockhounding. While it is almost completely devoid of precious gemstones, it is home to some of the best agate hunting in the entire country thanks to the many exciting varieties of agate that can be found here including the world-famous Fairburn agates.
It would be easy to let Nebraska’s reputation as a flat, geologically uninteresting state fool you into thinking that there aren’t many good places to hunt for rocks and minerals, but that wouldn’t be further from the truth. Nebraska is close enough to sources of collectible material that its rivers and gravels are littered with amazing specimens of agates, petrified wood, chalcedony, and even geodes.
The best places to rockhound in Nebraska are in the northwestern part of the state, particularly the public lands in the Black Hills and Badlands. Many more worthwhile rock collecting sites can be found along many rivers, most notably the north bank of the entire length of the Platte River.
|State Rock||Prairie Agate|
|State Gemstone||Blue Chalcedony|
This article will dive deeper into the many great rockhounding sites across the state (along with maps), but I’d like to highlight a few standouts here. The top 10 rockhounding sites for rocks and minerals in Nebraska:
- Omaha – Area to the west, to the Platte River
- Auburn – In gravels of the Little Nemaha River
- Crawford – Federal lands & the White River
- Orella – Washes and draws in the surrounding area
- Platte Center – At Platte & Loup Rivers junction
- Dawes County – All washes, draws, and streams
- Wymore – On east bank of the Blue River
- Whiteclay – In Whiteclay River and area gravels
- Sioux County – All washes, draws, and streams
- Agate Fossil Beds – The area outside monument
While Nebraska is certainly a great state for rockhounding, the diversity of rocks and minerals that can be found here leaves something to be desired. Almost all of the most commonly collected material in Nebraska is in the quartz family. The most popular by far are the fantastic agates that come in several varieties, but petrified wood, jasper, and chalcedony are all frequently found. For a bit more variety, you may be able to find some concretions, opalized wood, and geodes lined with quartz or celestite crystals.
The most commonly found and collected rocks and minerals in Nebraska are:
- Petrified wood
- Quartz crystals
- Opalized wood
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Nebraska which I would recommend to people looking to do some rockhounding. These are mostly comprised of old mining prospects, quarries, washes, 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. Joining up with a local rockhounding club for a group trip can often get you access to otherwise off-limits locations like privately owned mines and quarries. There are many rockhounding clubs in Nebraska so you can most likely find one you like nearby.
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 Sites in Nebraska
Western Nebraska Rockhounding Sites
Western Nebraska is home to some of the best rockhounding in the midwest. The Black Hills spill into the northwest corner of Nebraska and contain many fantastic rockhounding sites where you can find Fairburn agates, blue chalcedony, petrified and opalized wood, and more. While there is little in the way of pure gemstones, the agates and other microcrystalline quartz varieties found in the area are of very high quality and will be more than rewarding enough for any rockhound that finds them.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Chadron, area washes and gravels to N||Chalcedony (some blue)|
|Valentine, regional draws, washes, and hills along Niobrara River||Agatized wood, Opalized wood, Agate, Jasper|
|Lodgepole Creek, and entire area between N and S Platte Rivers||Agatized wood, Opalized wood|
|North Platte River, S banks and washes over a wide area||Agatized wood, Opalized wood|
|Crawford, in White River||Agate (Fairburn agates)|
|Crawford, all federal grazing lands||Agate (Fairburn agates), Jasper, Petrified wood|
|Orella, washes and draws over a wide area||Agate (Fairburn agates), Jasper, Carnelian, Chalcedony, Opalized wood, Agatized wood, Silicified ferns, etc.|
|Little Badlands||Vertebrate fossils|
|Republican River, between McCook and Franklin||Jasper (pastel)|
|Pine Ridge, general area||Quartz concretions, Agate, Petrified wood, Fossils, etc.|
|Dawes County, all gravels, washes, draws, etc.||Chalcedony, Celestite crystals, Fossils, Concretions, Agatized wood, Opalized wood|
|Sioux County, all gravels, washes, draws, etc.||Chalcedony, Celestite crystals, Fossils, Concretions, Agatized wood, Opalized wood|
|Chappell, all gravels, surfaces, etc.||Agate (Fairburn agates), Jasper, Chalcedony, Opalized wood, Agatized wood|
|Bayard, area gravels and sands W to Wyoming||Agate, Petrified wood|
|Scottsbluff Bandlands, outside Nalt. Memorial bounds||Concretions, Fossils|
|Whiteclay, area gravels along Whiteclay River||Agate, Chalcedony, Jasper, Petrified wood|
|Whiteclay, area W in all draws, washes, etc.||Agate (Fairburn agates), Jasper, Chalcedony, Opalized wood, Agatized wood, Fossils|
|Montrose, area gravels||Agate, Jasper, Fossils|
|Agate Fossil Beds, area outside of Natl. Monument||Agate, Jasper, Chalcedony, Fossils, Opalized wood, Agatized wood|
Eastern Nebraska Rockhounding Sites
The rockhounding in Eastern Nebraska is fairly limited when it comes to the variety of material that can be found, but that is more than made up for by the number of locations where you can find worthwhile specimens. Most of the collectible rocks and minerals in eastern Nebraska will be some variety of microcrystalline quartz like agates, chalcedony, jasper, or petrified wood. In select locations, you can also sometimes for geodes and rarer specimens like silicified mastodon tusk fragments. Most of the best places to rockhound in eastern Nebraska are along the Platte River, especially where it meets the Loup River near Platte Center.
Where to Find Geodes in Nebraska
Geodes are extremely popular specimens with rockhounds wherever you are in the world, and Nebraska is no exception. Luckily for you, there are a few places in Nebraska where geodes have been found. These geodes are usually lined with quartz or, more rarely, blue celestite. A geode lined with blue celestite would be a pretty amazing find and it definitely something worth seeking out for your own collection.
The best places to find geodes in Nebraska are in quarries, gravel pits, and other exposures in the eastern part of the state. In particular, geodes can be found on the eastern bank of the Blue River near Wymore and in quarries near the town of Holmesville.
Where to Find Crystals and Gemstones in Nebraska
There is nothing quite like uncovering a quartz crystal with a perfect termination or finding a beautiful agate that has been waiting in a river bank for you to come along and take it home. Gemstones are some of the most enjoyable specimens that rockhounds can find, but it’s not always easy to know where to look.
Tip: Check out my Complete Rock Tumbling Guide to make your rocks and gemstones really shine!
Nebraska is an often overlooked state when it comes to finding crystals and gemstones but there is plenty of great stuff to find. Most of the collectible material in the state is in the form of microcrystalline quartz minerals like agates and jaspers, but fully formed crystals of quartz, calcite, celestite, and pyrite can also be found.
The best places to find crystals and gemstones in Nebraska are:
- Wymore – Calcite & quartz crystals
- Dawes County – Celestite crystals, chalcedony
- Whiteclay – Fairburn agates, jasper, opalized wood
- Sioux County – Celestite crystals, chalcedony
- Chadron – Blue, gem-quality chalcedony
- Crawford – Fairburn agates, jasper, petrified wood
- Little Nemaha River – Moss agate, chalcedony
- Omaha – Banded & moss agates, opalized wood
Where to Find Agates in Nebraska
It may come as a surprise to learn that Nebraska is one of the best states in the entire country for agate hunting. The badlands and portions of the Black Hills are loaded with fantastic locations for finding agates, especially the world-famous ‘Fairburn agates’ which are known for their characteristic fortification banding. These agates formed in the Black Hills and have been exposed over time, often being transported along the many streams and rivers which cross the state.
The best places to find agates in Nebraska are the Black Hills and Badlands in the northwestern part of the state. Agates can also be found in the sands and gravels of Nebraska’s rivers, most notably along the Platte River and particularly near Platte Center where the Platte and Loup Rivers meet.
When hunting for agates you can usually also find other quartz-family gemstones like jaspers, chalcedony, and petrified wood. These semiprecious gemstones tend to be very hard and resistant to weathering so they can be transported great distances while still remaining relatively intact. You may even get lucky enough to find agatized or opalized mastodon ivory!
Nebraska 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 for every location 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 Nebraska’s Interactive Public Access Atlas.
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Nebraska will have records of who owns each piece of property. You can also usually get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. I would probably start by contacting the assessor in whatever county you’re interested in and getting whatever contact information you can for the landowner.
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: