Last year was not a great year for agate hunting, mostly due to the lack of ice flow on Lake Superior. It seems that the ice moves rocks around the basin and moves new rocks to our beach, including agates. Unfortunately, ice on Lake Superior is lacking again this year. Since there is almost no ice, evaporation is expected to be much higher so the lake level may be lower this summer. If that is true, there will be more rock exposed, which may help agate hunting. We will see.
For this update I have some agate pictures that people sent to me. First, here are a few Keweenaw agates found by David Schuder.
Carla and Cal from Wisconsin took my agate class in September and then went agate hunting locally as well as on the north shore. They were successful in finding an agate at Beaver Bay, MN!
While I was out west I spoke at the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. I was a member of this club for two winters a decade ago. It was great to see the members again. Also, thanks to the club members for buying books and agates! Sales from this speaking engagement helped pay a lot of my gas for the trip! Several people brought rocks and agates to show me after my talk was completed. After I arrived home, Claudia Johnson also sent some photos of Luna Blue agates, found in western New Mexico. Some of these photos are below. The second and third photos are of the same agate, showing the rough side and then the cut side.
Finally, in November Chris Seidl from Minnesota visited the U.P. He showed me some of his prime Lake Superior agates. These are all BIG!
Since the museum just opened the other day I have had a few customers bring agates in, but none that were worthy of posting photos for this update. So instead I took photos of some of the agates that I have in the museum’s gift shop. All the photos were taken with my USB microscope camera.
Here are a few photos of Mexican crazy lace agates…..
The agate hunting season in Grand Marais this year was a good one. Almost every day one or more people came into the museum to show off their beautiful finds. I also receive photos via email attachments. The end of June I received an email from someone asking if a series of rocks they found are agates. Below are three of these specimens – all Lake Superior agates of course.
In June Larry and Susan Hales visited the museum to show me four specimens. The red and white rock is a geode, which is rare to find on the Lake Superior beach since they usually do not survive the pounding of the waves.
David Schuder from the Keweenaw sent me photos of some of his summer finds. The first two photos show the cut side and raw side of a beautiful Laker. The third photo is an intricate Lake Superior agate with tubes, as well as some moss and sagenite structure. The structure in the fourth photo illustrates the impact that geothermal activity in the vicinity of the vesical pocket can have on agate formation.
Rod and Karen Thomas from Durano, MI visited the museum in June. They showed off an 18 ounce quartz ball agate that has some banding as well as eye formations. They also shared with me a beautiful Lake Superior agate they found a few years ago that they decided to cut since the raw specimen did not show much of the structure. Once cut, you can clearly see fortification banding as well as interesting center inclusions.
Jan Frederik Valkenberg Castro found the following agate in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. It is always awesome to see the similarities and differences that agates formed elsewhere in the world have as compared to Lake Superior agates.
In August as I was closing the museum one evening, a couple (Mandy and Taylor from Kalamazoo, MI) came in and asked me to tell them what an “A-GATE” is. I gave them a quick definition and convinced them to buy the new agate book, since they were interested in trying to find one. The next day they returned to the museum when Mandy showed me the first agate she ever found. She also explained that they had never heard of agates before and that they were on their honeymoon. I was excited for them and told her that the specimen she found was one of the nicest agates I saw all summer.
Finally, I would like to apologize to Steve Evoy and Susan Bitely who brought agates into the museum the beginning of July. Due to camera issues, I lost some of the photos that, unfortunately, were not able to be recovered. Thus, I could not include these photos in this update.
Although the agate season is just beginning, I still have some great photos to share. Another agate hunter with whom I regularly correspond via email is David Schuder from Sedar Bay in the Keweenaw Peninsula. David and some of his cohorts appreciate all Lake Superior agates, but as he explains, “anyone can have a red & white Laker or a peeler, etc. It is the neat minerals that appear as inclusions that get my attention.”
The first is a yellow-orange shadow agate found in Sedar Bay.
David also found this incredibly rare Lake Superior cloud agate.
How about David’s copper replacement agates from the Keweenaw!
David’s next agate is a rare dendritic, also out of Sedar Bay. He explained in his email that this Laker has inclusions of hematite, goethite, and limonite in a chalcedony gray agate fill with some minor Adularia.
The last agate photo submitted by David is one that he calls the clown agate.
Brandon Haddock visits Grand Marais several times a year, including in the winter when he and his friend goes winter camping. Here are a couple of photos of nice agates that Brandon found last year in the Grand Marais area.
Tony from the Granite Falls, MN area found this nine ounce agate and sliced the end off.
Last September a family visited my booth to show off some fantastic agates. Too much time has passed and I no longer can locate the card on which I recorded the name. If you see this and would like your name included, please email me at Karen@agatelady.com.
The other day Mark Buda from Bay City, MI visited the museum again. When he was here last year, he told me about acquiring a number of agates from an estate sale, including two large Lake Superior agates. He had the scuffed up one face polished. The first face polished specimen is four pounds. It includes some fortification sections as well as several tubes. The other specimen is a five pound fortification agate.
With winter the museum is not open so I do not have any current customer agate finds. So for this month’s update I searched through my supply of close up photos of Lake Superior agates. Some of these pictures I took using either my USB microscope camera or my Nikon. Some are also cropped pictures from my agate book, Agates Inside Out. These pictures were taken by Tom Shearer.
Museum Founder’s Agate
Interesting Banded Pocket
Alternating Bands of Microcrystalline and Macrocrystalline Quartz
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 Karen@AgateLady.com 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.