South Dakota Rockhound

I have FAR too many hobbies. Little things like career, life are getting in the way!! It's not like I need yet another hobby, but in the summer of 2017, my son and I were bitten by the "rockhounding" bug.  It started with one trip to Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in our beautiful state of South Dakota, to look for agates and other geologic goodies.  One trip turned into four straight weekends of making the long, 3 1/2 hour drive to the region....and a new hobby and passion were born.  We've been back several times since.

We're still new at this, but here's some of our treasures we've already found. Note the vast majority of these were found in one location, all within a 1-square mile area!  The variety you find on Buffalo Gap National Grasslands is truly astounding.   We've also started doing some polishing, so the photos below are a mix of polished and natural specimens. Note I really love the intricate patterns on some of these, so for many of the photos below, I'm also including macro, closeup photos of outstanding specimens.  They're roughly categorized, but there are clearly "hybrid" agates below with characteristics of multiple classifications.  I'll continue to post new finds as we make them

And oh...yeah...we like to name our finds, as you can see below.  :-)

 Click on any of the images below for a larger view

Fairburn Agates

South Dakota's world-famous "Fairburn" agates. Rare and gorgeous, we have only found a few so far!! And to be fair, some of these are "Fairburn-like" more than being classed as true Fairburns. Most obvious example of a true Fairburn is the top one.
Fairburn Agate - South Dakota Rockhound Fairburn Agate - South Dakota Rockhound - "Cyclops" Fairburn Agate - "Cyclops" - South Dakota Rockhound
We're calling the Fairburn above "Cyclops", for the one big red "eye", couple of "nostrils" below.
Fairburn Agate - "Easter Island Head" Fairburn Agate - "Easter Island Head" Fairburn Agate - "Easter Island Head"
"Easter Island Head", a specimen that was completely black (and very  much like an Easter Island head), until a bit of polishing revealed the Fairburn-like patterns underneath. I'm not sure this would technically be called a Fairburn. It's got incredibly fine, even banding and some fortification patterns, but those patterns are so much finer than the other pieces on this page.
Red Fairburn Agate Fairburn Agate - Pink Quartz White Fairburn Agate
"Red Fairburn" -  Another "surprise" Fairburn, this one was heavily weathered on the exterior, and the pattern below wasn't revealed until after several weeks of rough polishing. "Rose Quartz Fairburn" -  Possibly my favorite Fairburn, due to the gorgeous pink quartz at the center of the banding. This photo shows where it was found. "White Fairburn" -  Non-descript brown rocks are the most common find on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. When I found this one, it made me want to start breaking open every rock I saw, to see if a similar prize was inside.

Prairie Agates

Much more common than Fairburn agates with more disorganized banding and patterns, but many are really spectacular. Note we have many "tweener" agates that defy easy classification, so some of those are below as well.  Here are a few samples. Click to view an entire page devoted to Prairie Agates.
Prairie Agate - "Fried Egg Sandwich" Prairie Agate - "Jupiter" Prairie Agate - "Purple Druzy"
"Fried Egg Sandwich"...sprinkled with "paprika" "Jupiter".  Big red spot, get it? :-) "Purple Druzy", large, egg-shaped agate with druzy purplish centers
Prairie Agate - "Rainbow Prairie" Big Red - Prairie Agate Prairie Agate - "The Mutt"
"Rainbow Prairie" - Showing the variety of colors a prairie agate can have "Big Red" - A favorite. Most prairie agates we find primarily have rusty or creamy tones, but this guy has a gorgeous array of red colors, and some really intricate patterns. "The Mutt" - An agate that doesn't know what it wants to be. Eyes like bubblegum agate, some thin Fairbunish bands, and prairie agate features.

Many more Prairie Agate photos found here (click)


Bubblegum Agates

The other common agate we've found, there's some incredible variety in bubblegum agates. Many reveal really beautiful "eyed" patterns once polished.  Here are a few examples. Click here for an entire page devoted to bubblegum agates.
Bubblegum Agate 5 - South Dakota Rockhound "Red Pox" - Bubblegum Agate  Bubblegum Agate - "Brain Coral"
"Hidden Beauty" - The final product. of three months of continuous polishing, taking a featureless, bumpy little black stone, and revealing this gorgeous interior. "Red Pox" - Reddish and creamy tones seem to be the most common colors on bubblegum agates we find, some with red "eyes" on a creamy background, some vice-versa. "Brain Coral" - A raw, unpolished bubblegum agate just as it was found on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands
Bubblegum Agate 11 - South Dakota Rockhound Bubblegum Agate 20 - South Dakota Rockhound Bubblegum Agate - Asssorted
"Holy Crap!" - The most appropriately named stone out here. This was a little black chunk before throwing it in the polisher. It's one of those stones that when you first open the polisher and see it, you let out a loud "Holy crap!", given the unexpected beauty that resulted from the polish.  A small stone, but one of my absolute favorites. "The Imposter"- Polished bubblegums often seem to have these thing, parallel bands. They're often "Fairburn-like", with very thin, parallel bands, even having the fortification pattern of a Fairburn. But the patterns are always very, very fine, with very thin banding. Assorted bubblegum agates, as found without any polishing or other alteration.

Many more Bubblegum Agate photos found here (click)


Other Agates and Jaspers

Agates, jaspers, and other stones that just don't quite fit into some of the neat categories above. Click here for an entire page devoted to more agates and jaspers.
South Dakota Agate - "Monster Pox" South Dakota Agate - "Halfblood" Fairburn Agate - "Easy Chair"
"Pepperoni Pizza" - What I'd call a button agate, or perhaps a bubblegum with the nodules worn down a bit. A one-of-a-kind piece and one of my all-time favorites. "Half-blood" - A unique stone for us, with a even split between the clearer quartz with reddish inclusions on the right, and a more solid  blood-red on the left. "Easy Chair" - Not sure how to categorize this, but it's got a beautiful pattern around what was obviously once a central nodule.
Jasper 1 - South Dakota Rockhound Jasper 2 - South Dakota Rockhound Rainbow Agate - South Dakota Rockhound
"Rusty Bolt" - Gorgeous reddish patterns in the main stone itself, but the rusty "bolt" across the stone really sets it apart. "Cracked Jasper" - Definite one-of-a-kind piece for us, with an incredible black and red pattern on one side. "Rainbow Agate" - More variety of color in one stone than most pieces I've ever found, this may "just" be an exceptional prairie agate.

Other Agate and Jasper photos found here (click)


Petrified Wood

There's certainly no shortage of petrified wood when we look around the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. Pieces range from thumbnail size to big chunks weighing several pounds or even much bigger. Many look pieces that have just recently broken off of a live tree.  Click here for an entire page devoted to petrified wood.r
Petrified Wood - South Dakota Petrified Wood - South Dakota Petrified Wood - South Dakota
Petrified Wood 1 - Typical piece of petrified wood from the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, with well preserved detail on the outer portion, and a jet black core. Petrified Wood 1 (Macro) - Macro photo of the back side of the piece to the left, showing the detail that's preserved in these pieces. Petrified Wood 2 -- One of my favorite chunks we've found, about 3" long with a perfect exterior and jet-black core. 
Petrified Wood - South Dakota Rockhound Petrified Wood - South Dakota Rockhound Petrified Wood - South Dakota Rockhound
Petrified Wood 3 - Most of the petrified wood you find on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands are like the pieces above, grayish tones overall. I haven't found many like this.  Petrified Wood 4 - The most colorful piece I have, I'm pretty sure it's petrified wood given the grain, but it's definitely different than the other pieces I've found. Petrified Wood 4b - The flip side of the piece to the left.
Petrified Wood - Blue Forest    
Petrified Wood - "Blue Forest" (Wyoming)    

Other petrified wood photos found here (click)


Horn Coral - South Dakota Syringopora Coral - South Dakota Rockhound  
Horn Coral - Found on Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, but a traveler, washed down from the Black Hills Syringopora Coral - Another Buffalo Gap National Grasslands find, this gorgeous little agate has many syringopora fossil bits embedded in the main matrix   

Macro Mania!!

Some of the beauty of these stones can only been seen under high magnification. Here are a set of macro-photos (closeups) of agates and other stones. Click here for an entire page devoted to macro photography.
Mexican Crazy Lace - Macro 9 Agate Macro 2 - South Dakota Rockhound Mexican Crazy Lace - Macro 24
Agate Macro 4 - South Dakota Rockhound Mexican Crazy Lace - Macro 18 Agate Macro 8 - South Dakota Rockhound
Fluorite Cuprian Smithsonite Mexican Crazy Lace - Macro 25

More macro photos found here (click)


Out-of-state Agates and other Stones

The vast majority of pieces on these pages are self-collected material from South Dakota. This space is reserved for pieces from outside the state. So far, the only out-of-state material I've got is a gorgeous batch of Mexican Crazy Lace. Here are some photos of raw (unpolished) Mexican Crazy Lace agate. Closeups of the same material are found in the macro section above. Click here for an entire page devoted to out-of-state agates and other stones.
Mexican Crazy Lace agate 2 - South Dakota Rockhound Mexican Crazy Lace agate 1 - South Dakota Rockhound Mexican Crazy Lace agate 21 - South Dakota Rockhound
Mexican Crazy Lace Mexican Crazy Lace Mexican Crazy Lace
Mexican Crazy Lace agate 13 - South Dakota Rockhound Mexican Crazy Lace agate 11 - South Dakota Rockhound Mexican Crazy Lace agate 15 - South Dakota Rockhound
Mexican Crazy Lace Mexican Crazy Lace Mexican Crazy Lace
Linarite, Quartz, and Fluorite Smoky Quartz, Feldspar, and Phenakite Butryoidal Geothite
Linarite, Quartz, and Fluorite  Smoky Quartz, Feldspar, and Phenakite  Butryoidal Geothite 
Beryl (Aquamarine) Cuprian Smithsonite and Hemimorphite Opalized Wood
Beryl (Aquamarine)  Cuprian Smithsonite and Hemimorphite  Opalized Wood 
More out-of-state photos found here (click)
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Please mail any comments/suggestions/additional links for this page to: Terry L. Sohl