Lake Superior Agate and Rock Picking Beaches
Walking Lake Superior beaches searching for the treasured Lake Superior Agate is a favorite past time of many people vacationing around the big lake. Veteran rock pickers and agate hunters have their favorite beaches, some of which are kept secret. Among my favorites are Little Girls Point and Black River Harbor in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the border with Wisconsin. Black River Harbor’s beach is where I found my first agate (see picture) and Little Girl’s Point has I believe the largest variety of rocks and gemstones anywhere around Lake Superior. If you aren’t lucky enough to find an agate at LGP, you will for sure find some attractive rocks for polishing.
Little Girls Point is a Gogebic County park that has camping, including electric hookups, and picnicing facilities. Its beach is miles long and unpopulated. The water’s edge of the beach is shallow enough for swimming and there are sandy sections amongst the rocks for people who just want to sun bathe or do a picnic on the beach. But I’d say the major activity of day users and campers is rock picking because there must be millions of rocks along the shoreline and in the water adjacent to the beach. Every time there is a storm or high winds, new rocks get washed up on the beach. So yesterday you might have thought you thoroughly searched a section of beach, but today wind and surf have made it a “new” beach with fresh rocks.
Some rock pickers, me among them, like to walk the edge of the water looking for agates and potential gemstones. I get some good exercise from the walk and in bending over often to inspect specimens I get some stretching exercise as well. The Lake Superior breeze is cool and crisp, as is the water. I’ll bring a mesh or plastic bag for my specimens and generally walk until I am getting tired, then I begin the return trip. In general walking with the sun at your back allows you to see the rocks a little better. Going over the same territory, out and back, you get a different view of the rocks because of the sun and sometimes I find a good specimen that I missed on the way out. I’ll also focus more on the rocks in shallow water on the way out and then more on the rocks in the sand at the water’s edge on the way back (or visa-versa).
Another type of rock pickers are excavators. They find a spot on the beach that looks like a good place to find agates or other rare stones and plop themselves down with a bucket and small sand shovel and start digging. At Little Girls Point I think you could dig down at least two feet and still be excavating rocks. This method is less tiring and easier on your back. And it can be quite effective, particularly if you’ve learned to spot rock characteristics that favor the appearance of agates.
Recently I’ve tried a combination of the above methods with some success. As I said I really enjoy the stroll along the beach so that will continue to be my primary rock hunting style. However now when I come across an area with a number of quartz or quartzite rocks, I’ll stop and spend some time excavating and examining the rocks more closely. The two agatized rocks pictured above were found by this method.
Here's a Google Map showing the location of Little Girls Point Beach and two other nearby excellent Lake Superior rock picking beaches.
View Rock Picking Beaches - Ironwood Michigan in a larger map
Interested in learning more about rock picking along Lake Superior? Go to my SuperiorTrails website for agate & rock picking books and links and learn more about identifying Lake Superior beach rocks and agates
See our post on the Lake Superior Agate Festival - Rock On with Lake Superior Agates.