South Dakota is primarily known for one thing – Mount Rushmore. While you may be here to visit this incredible rock monument, there are many other rocks and fossils that can be found here as well. If you don’t scoff at getting your hands a little dirty you may want to do a little bit of excavating to see what you can find.
If you’re interested in mammoth fossils then the most famous site is appropriately called Mammoth Site. It’s located in Hot Springs and is a unique experience. What sets this site apart from others is that it is an indoor paleontological site. Within the site more than 60 Columbian and Woolly Mammoths have been found. There have also been more than 80 other animals and plant fossils found. If you’re not up for a hike and/or have young children, but still want to experience a fossil dig site then this internationally renowned location could do the trick.
If you’ve never seen petrified wood you’ll be quite amazed by its beauty. It still carries many of the colors and shades of the trees but is now a hard stone. While you’re here discovering the petrified forest of the Black Hills you can also be on the lookout for Brontosaurus fossils as an entire dinosaur skeleton was excavated here in 1889. Simply head to Piedmont and follow the signs.
If you’re in search of the states gemstone the Fairburn agate, you should head to the area around Fairborn. This incredible agate became the state’s official gemstone in 1966 and you’ll recognize it by its sharp-angled lines in a variety of colors including white, brown, tan, red, and black.
Some of these stone developed as far back as 330 to 250 million years ago and can be found around limestone. The agates are harder than the surrounding limestone rock and will erode out of its softer material over time.
To go along with the state gemstone you can also search for the state mineral, rose quartz. Most of us are already familiar with this pink hued stone and would spot it easily in a store. However, finding it out in the wild can be a different experience. Though the crystals are usually quite large they will not always show their pink or red color on the surface as it is formed from granitic magma that has solidified.
There are great reserves of these quartz crystals to be found in the Black Hills area dating back as far as 1.5 billion years. Just think of how much fun it would be to find something so ancient.
Black Hills Gold
Some of the most famous gold in the United States comes from the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is also home to the single largest gold mine in the country, the Homestake Mine (now closed). If you want to learn more about the gold occurrences in South Dakota, these links will provide further reading:Gold in South DakotaThe Black Hills Gold Rush
In 1988, the Triceratops became the official state fossil, prior to this time it was the cycad, a type of Mesozoic plant. Probably best since the Triceratops is much more recognizable and popular.
This herbivore survived during the period of the late Cretaceous, about 66 to 68 million years ago. Though this is so long ago it is still considered the end of the “Age of Dinosaurs” and is one of the last to evolve before the extinction. Triceratops fossils have been found around and in the rocks of Hell Creek Formation. This particular formation can be found in the Northwestern region of the state. Of course triceratops is exceptionally rare to find, but you look you are likely to find a variety of other smaller mammalian fossils if you search in the right areas.
Of course, many of the richest fossil areas are protected from digging, so be sure to do the appropriate research and ensure that you are legally in an area that you can collect them.