The agate hunting this summer has been OK, but not great. We were expecting a superb summer due to the massive amounts of ice on Lake Superior last winter. It has been many years since we had a lot of ice. In fact, according to NOAA the ice coverage on Lake Superior is down 70 percent since the mid-1970s. When the ice first begins forming in early winter, it forms at the high water mark where rocks get stuck under the ice. Wind shifts can cause the ice to break away and float around Lake Superior carrying its load of rocks. Normally, the spring storms with their north to northwest winds blow the ice with imbedded rock to beach between Grand Marais and Whitefish Point, where the ice melts and dumps its load. Memorial Day weekend we were down the beach and calling the icebergs in. Nature had another plan. For the next four days the wind blew strong from the south and blew the ice north to Canada. The ice never came back.

Despite the ice not bringing new rock to our beach, there have been several great agates found this summer. For this web page update I’ll include several.

The first agate was found by Grand Marais resident, Michael Kinlaw. Good job, Michael!

The next agate was found in the Grand Marais area in June by Sally Shippy.

Gordon Stanlake from Brown City, MI found several nice agates in the Grand Marais area.

My process for trying to link the photos with the agate finder names is to write their names on a business card along with their home towns and dates that I took the pictures. I have one card with no date so I am hoping that this is Peggy Bowman from Clyde, MI with her agate. If not, please send me an email to .

Jack Kitchen from St. Clair Shores, MI found this nice candy striped Laker that also has some shadow bands.

B.B. Bodin and Mark Bowen are rookie agate hunters. They bought my book and took the online class last fall and winter. Here are just a few of the dozens of large agates they have found this spring and summer.

Summer resident, Carol Rose, took my onsite rockhounding class several years ago. She is now an avid and successful agate hunter. Good job, Carol!

Jane Anderson from Fridley, MN stopped by the Gitche Gumee Museum to show me some of her agate finds. She did find these in Minnesota.

I may have mixed up a few of my note cards. The only card I have that corresponds with the dates for the two photos has listed Janel Novak. If these are your agates and you are not Janel, please send me an email to .

I have a feeling that the agate found by Peggy Bowman from Clyde, MI is shown below. I face polished this agate; the before and after pictures show the transformation.

Tyler Orton from Caro, MI found this nice Lake Superior agate.

The Chickering family had good agate hunting luck as they visited various beaches across the Eastern Upper Peninsula.

Here is an agate found by Priscilla from Kingsford, MI. She found it near Muskallonge State Park around three years ago. This is a “skipping atom agate.” After seeing several of these, I believe that the quartz in these specimens have metamorphosed into this unusual pattern.

A frequent museum visitor who did not want to be photographed brought into the museum on June 11th. It is an interesting tube agate.



Since winter has hit the Grand Marais area with a vengeance, there has been little to no agate hunting these past few months. Once in a while there is a minute patch of gravel drudged up by moving ice, especially during the early winter and early spring. Sure enough, when I was trekking down the beach with friends, Jamey and Lois Fite, Jamey found a small little agate chipper on December 1st.

In March I received an email from Cheryl Haessig. The text in the email: “Hi, came across this agate in a display that came from Grand Marais Michigan. Believe he bought it from your shop a couple of years ago. Cheryl Haessig (frequent summer visitor to Grand Marais)”

This was one of the museum founder’s agates that I decided to sell.

For the rest of the photos included in this web page update, I am including some of the close up pictures I took using my USB microscope camera. The detail is amazing.

Let’s start with a couple close ups of Lake Superior agates.

Next: Argentina Condor agate.

Equally magnificent are these photos of a Montana Dry Head agate.

Finally last, but certainly not least, a couple pictures of an Australian Queensland shadow agate.



This has been a really weird year for agate hunting in Grand Marais. Since there was moving ice on Lake Superior last winter that brought new rock to our shore and dredged up other rock that was laying just off shore – rock hunting in the early spring was terrific. Since then we have had periodic storms on Lake Superior that have not been cooperative. These November-like gales now happen any month of the year and serve to undertow rocks back out into the lake or cover those at the high water mark with sand. There have been days when beaches that historically have been covered with rock have had none. In early August, even the beach in front of Woodland Park right in Grand Marais basically had no rock.

The chaotic condition of the shoreline has continuously moved rock up and down the beach as well as down shore. Successful agate hunters have had to be patient and spread their search sites out to find the beaches that do have rock. This has not been easy since the location of beaches with rock seems to change on a daily basis. But thankfully, many great agates have been found this year including at least two that are over four pounds. One of these I did not get a chance to see. The other one I did not see originally when it was found in September by a beginning agate hunter, but I did get to see it the other night. It was found by Alesia Joki from Appleton, WI. She was up with Gary Darling, who has been giving her agate hunting tips. This 4.5 beauty shown below does not have many intricate bands, but does have awesome white floater bands as well as extremely complex agate formation transition zones and cool botryoidal formations in the center fill. It was found just off shore in two feet of water in front of Woodland Park. It was sitting by itself on “smiling” up at Alesia.

Allison from Charlevoix, MI found this intricate beauty and brought it into the museum the end of August.

Regular agate hunters Brian and Regina stopped by my booth at the Muskellunge Lake State Park show in September. I did not get close up photos of the agates.

Char Kramer from Zeeland, MI also stopped by my booth at the Muskellunge show. She showed off this Lake Superior eye agate that she found in the Grand Marais area and then tumbled.

But then Char asked me to identify the specimen shown below that she found in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Apparently she showed this specimen to several dealers. Half of us said it is thomsonite. The other half said it is prehnite. I guess in some ways we were all right. Most of the prehnite found in the Keweenaw has a characteristic pale-green to white color, but some specimens are mottled in pink and green. The pink prehnite superficially resembles thomsonite with a radiating fibrous habit that appears to have occasional “eyes.” The pink color of the prehnite is due to internal reflections from finely disseminated native copper inclusions, and the color intensity is related to the distribution, abundance, and grain size of the inclusions. In some cases this pink prehnite is referred to as “U.P. thomsonite.”

Although Claudia lives in southeast Michigan during the winter, she and her husband spend most of the summer camping in Woodland Park. Most days Claudia can be seen scouring the beach in front of Woodland Park. Here are some of her agates…..

Debra Spatrisan from St. Johns, MI, found this intricate shadow agate in Grand Marais in August.

Eric from Grand Haven, MI found this agate in Grand Marais in September. The center fill of this agate has some amethyst.

Several people either sent me photos or came into the museum with agates that they found down state. Greg found the agates shown below in Osceola County. The red one certainly looks like a Lake Superior agate that perhaps was dragged south by the glaciers. The other specimen looks more like an agate that formed in sedimentary matrix rock.

Oftentimes I hear about agates before they are brought into the museum. That is the case for this nice 12 ounce beach-worn agate found by Dirk and Heidi Hughes from Holland, MI. They found it near the mouth of the Two Hearted river.

Now that my friend, Jill, and her husband have bought property in Grand Marais, she gets to spend a lot more time agate hunting. Here are a few of her treasures…..

John Buffone from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario spends time agate hunting all along the Lake Superior shoreline, both in Canada and in the U.S. He has found some whole nodules and rescued them from their basaltic matrix. He also acquired some old stock specimens that were taken out of the matrix basalt on Michipocoten Island (located in the northeastern part of Lake Superior) many decades ago.

Katrina Smalley found this lacey paintstone agate in early September. She is from Columbiaville, MI.

Marilynn comes to Grand Marais agate hunting multiple times during the year. Here is an interesting tube agate that she found toward the end of the summer.

Sally in Claudia’s sister-in-law. Believe it or not, they are married to identical twin brothers. Sally and Claudia are quite the pair and enjoy agate hunting together. Here is “mother-child” pair of agates that Sally found east of Grand Marais.

Unfortunately the photo I took of the eye agate shown below is not quite in focus. But I do not want to slight Sue Hoholik from Manistique, who found this agate in Grand Marais during the middle of August.



Right after the icebergs melted, we had terrific agate hunting in the Grand Marais area. For the first time in several winters, we had floating ice on Lake Superior. As the shore ice forms, rocks become embedded in the ice. When the wind shifts, sometimes this shore ice breaks off and floats around Lake Superior – carrying a hidden stash of rocks.

In the spring, the icebergs get blown by northwest winds and beach for the last time between Grand Marais and Whitefish Point. At first there was a ton of rock on our local beaches. Although there is still some rock now (late in the summer), there have been three Lake Superior storms that have played havoc with the beaches. One late spring storm and two massive summer storms have under-towed many of the rocks back out into the lake bed, and covered up others with sand. From week to week, if not day to day, the availability of rock on any particular beach changes drastically. So agate hunters this summer must be patient.

Whenever customers come into the museum with their agates that I photograph for this web page, I usually write down their names and save those cards until I execute a web page update. This time I am not sure I managed these pieces of paper well. I’m missing at least one – and for that I apologize. Please send me an email to to correct my gaps or any errors below.

At the end of May, this woman came into the museum with a rock – asking if it is an agate. She also asked me to cut and face polish the specimen. When she found it on the beach east of Grand Marais last fall, it appeared to have recently eroded out of the dune. The cryptocrystalline husk on the rock had not yet eroded away, so although it was translucent, you could not see much banding. However, there was a fracture on one end that clearly exposed banding. What a ¾ pound agate it is – especially since it is the first one she ever found. I had the name on the paper bag used to transport the agate home – but I didn’t record it and I threw the bag away. Note to agate finder: I hope your surgery went well and that you were able to bring the agate into the O.R. with you. Let me know and also email me your name and home town so I can include it with this update.

Tim and Shawn Burt came into the museum at the end of June with this unusual specimen. It had some agate as well as macro quartz along with ocean-jasper-like orbs.

Local resident, Ryan, used to help me out at the museum when he was a young kid. He stopped by the museum to show me his jar of agates. Good job, Ryan!

Oops – looks like I misplaced a second card with info about this agate and agate hunter. She brought it by the museum on July 17th. Nice agate! Please email me and let me know your name and home town!

Nolan, Emma, and their mother, Margaret from Lapeer, MI showed off their agates found in Grand Marais the third week of July.

Ken from Milan, MI showed off the agates he found in the Keweenaw Peninsula. These paint-stone agates are a bit different than those found on the Grand Marais beaches.

Tony emailed the photo below of a plume agate he found on Whitefish Point in early August.


Since the museum has not been open, I only have one set of actual customer agate photos. Chris Cooper showed me the raw agate last summer that he physically extracted from basaltic rock in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Since this agate nodule had never been subjected to erosional forces (e.g. waves, ice, etc.). Notice how there is a full husk on this agate and that absolutely none of the chalcedony is showing on the outside. Keep in mind that this is rare and almost never happens with agates found on the beach, which have been subjected to erosional forces. Chris then tumbled the agate. Below are the before and after pictures.

For this month’s update, I’ll supplement this posting with some agate photos that I have taken, all of which are included in the Online Rockhounding Adventures. The next two photos show exposed banding on Lake Superior agates. The first one is a raw agate and the second is a polished agate.

Here are some more photos showing raw agates on the beach.

The two photos below are close up images of a Lake Superior paintstone agate.



It has been a crazy summer. I have pictures of several customer agates below. I must admit that my camera has been having some issues with the way it is saving the image files, so I am not exactly certain which of the cards I kept with the names and dates of the agate finders go with which of the images. So I am going to give it my best shot. PLEASE send me an email to  if I have made a mistake with any of the agate and agate finder match ups.

L Bergen (Roseville, MN) found this amethyst center filled Lake Superior agate in a construction zone.

Chris Cooper stopped by the museum showed me some incredible specimens of agate as well as greenstone, thomsonite, and other rocks. Check out the copper replacement agate that Chris found and face polished, as well as the whole nodule with intact husk that he pried out of basaltic rock out in Lake Superior off the shore of Copper Harbor. Sorry that I didn’t get a picture of Chris.

Ethan from Kalkaska, MI found this large specimen that measures 3” x 2” x 1.5”.

The next agate is a rare iron lace agate that formed in seams between metamorphosed iron ore layers in the Ishpeming, MI area. Most of these rare agates were found back in the 1970s. Gloria Town (Hillsdale, MI) acquired this nice specimen from Jeff Anderson at the Ishpeming show.

Jason Brandt emailed me this photo of an amygdaloidal basalt with small agate pockets.

Larry Dorau emailed me this terrific picture of a moss agate.

Patty and Bob Zummer (Ann Arbor, MI) are up in Grand Marais for their annual camping trip. They have had great success agate hunting this year on the beaches east of town.

Patty O (Bear Lake, MI) found this gray, tube, shadow agate in Grand Marais.

Rhonda Riebow emailed me this picture of agates she found east of Grand Marais.

Ryan Ailie found this Lake Superior agate.



I have had a number of people stop by the museum in the last couple of weeks to show me some incredible agates. Several people have also sent me pictures via email.

Let’s start with some agates found by Brian Wolbrink from Allendale, MI. He has been agate hunting for several years, but lately has really turned it up a notch. He purchased some used equipment from me last year and is compiling even more equipment. Some of the agates below are still in the rough, while others have been “dressed up.”

First, here is a picture of Brian and then two photos that he submitted via email.

Brian’s next agate is an unusual ruin again. The horizontal streak through the specimen is a healed fracture.

Brian’s next agate is a very translucent carnelian agate.

The next agate has some interesting iron oxide plumes.

Brian’s next agate is a cute candy striper.

Here are a couple more of Brian’s agates. In the second photo below, notice the bright mineral inclusions near the top of the specimen.

The next series of agate photos were submitted via email from David Schuder who lives in the Keweenaw Peninsula in the western U.P. of Michigan. He loves to cut open rough looking Lake Superior agates in hope of finding interesting inclusions or other formations. Most of the agates were found in the Sedar Bay area. The first two agates shown below are sagenite agates.

Check out this terrific eye agate.

This submitted photo is not completely in focus, but I love the tubes and the character of this agate.

The first email I received from David included information and pictures that correct the list of agate formations included in my agate book for Michigan. Previously I have never seen a Lake Superior agate with dendritic formation. I stand corrected.

This terrific Lake Superior candy striped agate belongs to my friend, Jill.

The next series of agates were brought into the museum by Nolan and Doreen Johnson who are from St. Johns, MI. These first two pictures show both sides of a nice Laker.

Here are a couple more of their agates plus a picture of Nolan and Doreen.

Recently Wayne from Three Rivers, MI came into the museum to show me this incredible agate. This specimen weighs around 7 ounces.

Although agates from different geographic areas tend to vary in their characteristics, this is less true for an agate found in Washington state by Toni from Toledo, WA. Other than its huge size, it looks a lot like a Lake Superior agate. Despite its large size, notice that the agate is still translucent. This agate was found in a river. Since it is a whole nodule, there are no fractures that expose the banding.



Given that beach rocks are still for the most part not accessible, I do not have any submissions for recent agate finds. However, Jeff Carlson submitted the following picture in early winter. He found this basaltic matrix rock with a carnelian agate pocket and other brecciated fill. The rock was found at on an undisclosed Lake Superior beach.

Last summer I posted a few pictures of Claudia Wyrick’s agates. She recently sent me some photos of Lake Superior agates her parents found on Isle Royal in the mid-1950s. These agates found by Bud and Gloria Norris include a candy stripped agate, plume agate, sagenite agate, and white agate.

I have been posting customer agate finds for several years. On my blog a month or so ago I included close up photos from some of these agate finds. I’ve decided to include them here, although I spent a bit more time cleaning up the pictures files.


This is the slow time of year for people to submit pictures of agate finds. Even this fall I did not receive very many emails. There are a few that I can feature in this update, though. The first is an interesting seam agate found in the Grand Marais area. It also has tubes, or perhaps they are stalk aggregates. This agate was found by Celt and Karen Hicks, who are from Sparta, Michigan.

I received an email from Mark Buda, who lives in the Bay City, Michigan area. They were rock hunting in a gravel pit down state. In amongst fossils and other quartz rocks they found these agate-like specimens. With their thick husk they are not translucent. Since I have not seen them in person I cannot determine if they are agates or banded jasper or chert. I like them so I am including photos below.

For the past year I have been corresponding with David Jude from Ann Arbor. He is a research scientist in the School of Natural Resources. Since I received my bachelor’s degree from this school, I always enjoy corresponding with David. He found this agate near Paradise, Michigan.

I also received an email from Andy Johnson, who lives in the state of Washington. He sent me two pictures of agates he found near Mount Saint Helen as well as some of the beach agates he found on the Pacific Ocean shore. The Mount Saint Helens agates appear to be similar to agates found in Luna, New Mexico as well as in Panama.



I have a variety of agate photos featured in this update’s “Customer Agate Finds.” First, here are a couple of shots of a Lake Superior agate found by Chris Cooper at the mouth of the Two Hearted River, located an hour and a half east of Grand Marais.

Next are a couple of agates found by Janice Chamberlin in the Whitefish Point area. Janice is from n Diamondale, MI.

Finally, I have some more Australian agate find photos submitted by John Nedwich. Notice how similar these Queensland Australia agates are to Lake Superior agates.