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're still new at this, but here's some of our treasures we've already found. 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

 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!!
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 patterns underneath
Fairburn Agate - "Easy Chair"    
"Easy Chair" - OK, more a "Nearburn" than a Fairburn, but hey, we need more specimens to populate this section.    

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.
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" Prairie Agate - "Rainbow Prairie" Prairie Agate - "The Mutt"
"Rainbow Prairie" - Showing the variety of colors a prairie agate can have "Rainbow Prairie", Side B "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.
Prairie Agate - "The Classic" Prairie Agate - "Black Prairie" Prairie Agate - "Pink Eye"
"The Classic" - Typical of one of the most common color patterns on Buffalo Gap National Grassland agates "Black Prairie" - Typical prairie agate banding, stained black. Due to manganese presence (?). We have found sometimes it's just a thin outer veneer of black that disappears when polished a bit. "Pink Eye" - We've found a number of prairie agates with a rosy-pink "eye" such as this.
Prairie Agate - "Prairie Fort" Prairie Agate - "Prairie Fort" Prairie Agate - "Almond Cookie"
"Prairie Fort" - The hallmark of a Fairburn agate is the even fortification banding. The big prairie agate has ample fortification patterns, but with the more disorganized prairie agate banding. "Prairie Fort" - Side B.  This agate was largely buried when I found it, with only the top left of this photo showing. Had my heart racing at first with the fortification patterns. Not a Fairburn, but a gorgeous prairie agate. "Almond Cookie" - Yummmm...delicious cookie with slivered almonds.
Prairie Agate - "Lil' Giant" Prairie Agate - "Dirty Snow"  
"Lil' Giant" - Great things come in small packages. This guy comes in at a shade under 1" wide, butt has some gorgeous patterns. We've learned not to ignore the little agates. "Dirty Snow" - We have a lot of agates with banding and druzy centers in a dark matrix. This one is different in that the main matrix is a very creamy white, with darker inclusions.  
     
     

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.
Bubblegum Agate - "Alien Head" Bubblegum Agate - "Alien Head" Bubblegum Agate - "Brain Coral"
"Alien Head" - A polished bubblegum agate with the eyes worn smooth, revealing what's CLEARLY a big-brained alien head underneath. "Alien Head" - Side B "Brain Coral" - A raw, unpolished bubblegum agate just as it was found on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands
Bubblegum Agate - "Ski Mask" Bubblegum Agate - "Ski Mask" Bubblegum Agate - Asssorted
"Ski Mask" - Partially polished bubblegum agate "Ski Mask" - Side B Assorted bubblegum agates, as found
     
     

Other Agates / Stones 

Agates and other stones that just don't quite fit into some of the neat categories above
South Dakota Agate - "Monster Pox" South Dakota Agate - "Halfblood"  
"Monster Pox" - What I'd call a button agate, and a very big one "Half-blood" - A unique agate 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.  
     
     

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.
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. 
     
     

Fossils

Horn Coral - South Dakota    
Horn Coral - Found on Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, but a traveler, washed down from the Black Hills    
     
     
Visit the "Print / Digital Image Sales" page for use / purchase information.

 

Click to return to the main page

 

Please mail any comments/suggestions/additional links for this page to: Terry L. Sohl