Wisconsin is one of the best states in the entire United States for rockhounding, both for its large variety of gem-quality minerals and wide distribution of potential rockhounding locations. Due to its history of glacial activity and its proximity to Lake Superior, Wisconsin is well known for incredible specimens of Lake Superior agates, quartz crystals, labradorite, and even diamonds.
The best places to rockhound in Wisconsin are stream beds, river gravels, quarries, glacial moraine gravels, and lakeshore beaches. Northwestern and Southwestern Wisconsin are particularly notable destinations for rockhounds, with very productive locations in local river gravels and mining dumps.
|State Rock||Red Granite|
|State Gemstone||Agate (unofficial)|
A wide variety of rocks, minerals, and gemstones can be found in Wisconsin including agate, jasper, diamond, aventurine, native copper, kyanite, pearls, galena, and quartz crystals. Wisconsin contains many gem-quality mineral specimens as well as crinoid and trilobite fossils.
If you’ve already found a rock and you’re not sure what it is, I would highly recommend checking out my Practical Rock Identification System. This bundle of information includes a book, videos, and online tools. It is, simply put, the most comprehensive and easy-to-understand rock identification system you’ll find anywhere.
Through quite a bit of research and cross-referencing of available literature, I have compiled this list of some prospective locations in Wisconsin 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.
Wisconsin Rockhounding Locations
Important Disclaimer: I have not been to these locations myself, and I do not know if they are currently open for collecting. Use this resource as a guide to get you started. Follow posted signage and always get permission from the landowner to collect.
NOTE: All the locations listed in these tables are clickable, and will take you to the location on Google Maps.
The best rockhounding locations in northwestern Wisconsin are in river and stream gravel beds, glacial moraines, and some rock outcrops. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is home to some of the best rockhounding in the state. A surprisingly large variety of minerals can be found including agates, jasper, kyanite, almandine, native copper, and even diamonds.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Ashland County, regional stream gravels||Agate, Jasper|
|Area N of Copper Falls State Park||Copper (native)|
|5 mi. E of Rice Lake, area quarries||Catlinite, Quartzite (gemmy, banded red & white)|
|Bayfield County, regional stream gravels, pits, etc.||Agate, Jasper|
|Chippewa County, regional stream gravels, pits, etc.||Agate (Lake Superior Agate), Quartz crystals|
|Black River & tributaries, in gravels||Agate, Jasper|
|Owen, area stream gravels||Jasper|
|Sandstone exposures on Annicon, Brule, and Black Rivers, area||Copper (native)|
|Banks of Ounce Creek, and old Weyerhaeuser Mine dumps||Agate, Azurite, Bornite, Chlorite, Copper, Diopside, Epidote, Malachite, Quartz, Silver|
|Menomonie, area quarries and gravels||Agate (Lake Superior agate)|
|Big Falls Park, in gneisses||Almandine, Cummingtonite, Hornblende, Plagioclase|
|Little Falls area of Eau Claire River||Beryl|
|Iron County, in sandstones esp. along Montreal River||Copper (native copper)|
|Iron County, regional stream gravels and pits||Agate, Jasper|
|Outcrops between Sandy Beach & Mud Lakes||Almandite, Kyanite (crystals), Staurolite|
|Robinson Landing, area||Kyanite|
|Montreal Mine, on dumps||Actinolite, Barite, Selenite, Braunite, Calcite, Celestine, Dickite, Dolomite, Galena, Goethite, Gypsum, Hematite, Magnetite, Marcasite, Pyrite, Quartz, Rhodochrosite, Siderite, Talc, etc.|
|S of Mercer, in schists and gneisses||Kyanite|
|Hwy 182 road cut, SW of Powell||Almandite, Biotite, Kyanite, Muscovite, Quartz, Plagioclase, Sillimanite, Staurolite|
|Near Saxon Falls, in basalt veins near Montreal River||Calcite, Chlorite, Epidote, Laumontite, Prehnite, Thomsonite|
|Jackson Co. Iron Mine dumps, in biotite schist||Actinolite, Almandine, Andalusite, Biotite, Kyanite, Magnetite, Sillimanite|
|Durand, area quarries and stream gravels||Agate (Lake Superior agate)|
|Diamond Bluff, area moraine gravels||Diamond (occasional)|
|Plum Creek, in gravels||Diamond (occasional), Gold (placer)|
|Dresser Trap Rock Quarry||Actinolite, Augite, Bornite, Calcite, Chalcopyrite, Chlorite, Chrysotile, Copper, Cuprite, Epidote, Hematite, Magnetite, Plagioclase, Quartz, Zoisite|
|Flambeau Copper Mine||Many minerals, wide variety|
|Blaisdell Lake, N and S||Kyanite|
|Sawyer County, regional stream gravels & Chippewa River||Agate, Jasper|
|The Bend Deposit||Azurite, Bornite, Calaverite, Chalcocite, Chalcopyrite, Gold, Krennerite, Malachite, Petzite, Pyrite, Tetrahedrite|
|Central Wood County, in stream gravels||Agate, Aventurine, Quartzite|
|Btwn Spider Lake & Lost Land Lake||Kyanite|
Northeastern Wisconsin is home to a nice selection of gemstones and minerals including beryl, quartz, kyanite, albite, epidote, and even rubies and sapphire. The best rockhounding locations in northeastern Wisconsin include Rib Mountain, Farr Lake, the Pine River Reservoir, and the many regional river and stream beds.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|SE of Farr Lake, in a pegmatite dike||Beryl, Quartz, Spodumene, Zinnwaldite|
|SE of Jennings Falls trailhead||Albite, Beryle, Columbite-Tantalite, Elbaite, Microcline, Muscovite, Triphylite|
|Pine River Reservoir, in veins||Quartz, Kyanite, Hematite (specular)|
|W of Halder, in outcrops||Epidote, Unakite|
|Rib Mt., along summit road||Rhodochrosite, Quartz crystals|
|N of Townsend, in quartz outcrop||Quartz crystals, Hematite (specular)|
|Outgamie County, regional stream gravels and pits||Ruby (gem), Sapphire (gem)|
|Tigerton, gravels of S branch of Embarrass River||Bertrandite, Beryle (gem crystals), Quartz, Phenakite|
The best rockhounding locations near Milwaukee and the rest of southeastern Wisconsin include the shores of Lake Michigan, area quarries and mining dumps, and glacial moraine gravels. The local quarries around Racine are particularly notable for their gem-quality specimens. Many interesting specimens can be found in the area including hematite, rhyolite, crinoids, trilobites, geodes, and even diamonds.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Mayville & Iron Ridge, area mine dumps||Limestone, Hematite|
|Berlin & Utley, area mine dumps||Rhyolite (gem rhyolite)|
|Saukville, in area glacial moraine gravels||Diamond (occasional)|
|Burlington, area pits, gravels, quarries, etc.||Diamond|
|Regional quarries along Rte. 83||Crinoids, Trilobites|
|Racine, area quarries||Gem crystal, Fossils, Calcite crystals, Marcasite crystals|
|Eagle, area Kettle Moraine gravels||Diamond|
|Estabrook Park, outside park boundaries||Geodes, Millerite crystals (in calcite)|
|Oshkosh, Lutz Quarry||Calcite, Galena, Marcasite, Pyrite, Sphalerite, Fossils|
Southwestern Wisconsin is home to some of the best rockhounding in the state. The best locations to search are in stream beds, river gravels, glacial moraine deposits, and the many local mining dumps. Rockhounds can hope to fine specimens of agate, galena, diamond, azurite, barite, calcite, and more. The freshwater mussels of the local rivers are even known to contain gem-quality pearls.
|Location||Rocks & Minerals|
|Prairie du Chien, area stream & river gravels||Agate|
|Mississippi River beds, in mussels||Pearls (gem pearls)|
|Gravels of Kettle Moraine, 2.5 mi. SW of Oregon||Diamond|
|Boscobel, in Wisconsin River beds, mussels||Pearls (gem pearls)|
|Cassville, in regional gravels and stream beds||Agate, Quartz crystals|
|Hazel Green, area mine dumps||Barite, Calcite, Galena, Marcasite, Pyrite, Smithsonite, Sphalerite|
|Muscoda, area stream gravels||Agate|
|Platteville, area mine dumps||Barite, Calcite, Galena, Marcasite, Pyrite, Smithsonite, Shalerite|
|Grant River beds, in mussels||Pearls (gem pearls)|
|Werley, area mine dumps||Barite, Calcite (dogtooth), Galena, Marcasite, Pyrite, Smithsonite, Sphalerite|
|Monroe, area mine dumps||Galena|
|Cobb & Mifflin, area mine dumps||Azurite, Barite, Chalcopyrite, Cuprite, Smithsonite, Sphalerite, etc.|
|Dodgeville, area quarries and mines||Barite, Calcite, Galena, Marcasite, Pyrite, Smithsonite, Sphalerite|
|La Crosse County, area quarries, stream gravels||Agate (Lake Superior agate)|
|Bluffs of Miss. River, entire W boundary of state||Agate (Lake Superior agate), Jasper, Diamond (occasional), Fossils|
|Devil’s Lake, in quartz deposits||Agate (Lake Superior agate)|
|Abelman’s Gorge area, in road cuts||Quartz crystals, Quartzite|
Where to Find Agates in Wisconsin
Due to its proximity to Lake Superior, Wisconsin is world-famous for its Lake Superior Agate production. These agates are especially desirable for their fantastic red-and-white banding and beautiful concentric ring patterns. Luckily, these agates are relatively easy to find all across the region.
The best places to find agates in Wisconsin are local stream beds and river gravels all across the state, quarries and excavation sites, and lakeshore beaches. Lake Superior Agates are widely distributed across the state and can be found almost anywhere where fresh rocks and gravel are exposed.
Where to Find Geodes in Wisconsin
While not particularly known for its geodes, Wisconsin does have some locations where rockhounds can hope to find their own geode specimens. These geodes can be filled with a variety of minerals including millerite, drusy quartz, and goethite.
The best places to find geodes in Wisconsin are near Estabrook Park in Milwaukee, a quarry on Big Hill Road in Pepin County, and the Fayerweather Quarry near Prairie du Chien.
Where to Find Gemstones in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is perhaps the best state in the entire United States for finding gemstones, both for its variety of gem-quality minerals and abundance of potential locations. The wide distribution of glacial deposits across the state mean that almost anywhere in the state has the potential to be nearby a good rockhounding location that could contain gemstones.
The best places to find gemstones in Wisconsin are stream and river gravels, quarries, glacial moraine gravels, and lakeshore beaches. Glacial deposits and erosion of mineralogically rich volcanic rock beds have distributed gemstones such as agates and diamonds all across the state.
Tip: Check out my Complete Rock Tumbling Guide to make your rocks and gemstones really shine!
Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin Public Lands Mapping Application.
Private Land Resources
As with most states, each county in Wisconsin will have records of who owns each piece of property. Unfortunately for rockhounds, the law prohibits them from publishing their names or contact information online. You can get the landowner’s name and address by visiting the county records office. I would also highly recommend starting with the Wisconsin Statewide Parcel Map which lets you look up property ownership by address.
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: