How to Find Agates in Michigan

By Cathryn Whitehead
Agate, its banding patterns
agate image by Hubert from

Agate is a semi-precious gemstone valued by collectors for its rich colors, banding patterns and reflective qualities. This hard rock forms when liquid quartz fills an empty pocket inside another rock, usually lava. No two agates are exactly alike. Colors and patterns vary according to changes in temperature, mineral content and pressure as agate forms. Agates can be found in many areas of Michigan.

Step 1

comfortable shoes, agate
Collecting Pebbels image by Andrew Breeden from

Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes to search for agate. You will be on your feet for a long time walking, climbing, stooping and squatting. Take a backpack to put rocks in.

Step 2

Agates, light, other rocks
nature morte avec agate 3 image by Mikhail Blajenov from

Search for agate on a sunny day early in the morning or late in the day. The sun's rays that slant across rocks bring out a translucent glow from the quartz that's in agate. Walk into the sun and squat low to the ground. Agates will reflect light more than other rocks.

Step 3

Agate, the shoreline, new rocks, the beach
water motion flowing lake superior rocks agate col image by Paul Retherford from

Look along the shoreline right after a storm when new rocks wash up on the beach. Look into water near the shore in the spring, on ledges, at the edges of inland rivers, in creek beds, along railroad tracks and beside the road, especially in construction areas.

Step 4

Agate, gravel pits, a windstorm
water on the gravel road image by DianaStrizhigotskaya from

Ask for permission to search in gravel pits, mines and any other private property. Use a flashlight to look for the soft glow of the agate and banding that you can't see without the light. Agate is easier to find in gravel pits following a windstorm.

Step 5

agate, the Lower Peninsula, Lake Michigan beaches
couple sitting on beach sunset romantic image by Paul Retherford from

Find agate in the Lower Peninsula on Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay beaches. Look on the Lake Michigan side of the Leelanau Peninsula and in gravel pits throughout Lower Michigan.

Step 6

agate, Upper Peninsula beaches, Lake Superior
lake superior shoreline great lake image by Paul Retherford from

Find agates on Michigan beaches in the Upper Peninsula such as Grand Marais Agate Beach, Santa Monica Beach, Paradise, Whitefish Point, Marquette, Houghton and the Keweenaw Peninsula's Great Sand Bay or Copper Harbor. Get permission to visit one of the copper mines. Visit one of the many rock shops and museums for a class or maps that will lead you to agates in Michigan or take a rock collecting tour.

Step 7

Agates, other rocks, patterns, a waxy luster
agate image by jonnysek from

Look for rocks less than three inches in diameter that are heavier than rocks of the same size. Look for rocks with a pitted surface and a potato skin-like texture, or broken rocks with an almost perfectly smooth natural surface. Search for rust-red or yellow stains, straight parallel bands, round bands called "eyes" and a glossy, waxy look on chipped surfaces. Look through rock piles for gray rocks with a waxy luster. Try to scratch a rock you think is agate with a knife blade. Agate is too hard to scratch.

About the Author

Cathryn Whitehead graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987. She has published numerous articles for various websites. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and on Whitehead has done extensive research on health conditions and has a background in education, household management, music and child development.