How to Hunt for Geodes
If you think back to your childhood and the very first rocks that ever enthralled you, there is a good chance they were geodes. When you find a geode, you feel like you’ve unearthed a hidden treasure—which in a very real sense, you have.
Geodes are typically agates. Agates are very common stones, and usually do not fetch a high price, but they are gorgeous to look at. Geodes in particular can be quite incredible, because they are like little miniature caves.
On the outside, they look like plain, rough stones. But when you break them open, you can see concentric bands of color surrounding a hollow interior. Oftentimes, that interior is packed with miniature crystals.
The dull, unexceptional outside surface of a geode is part of what makes discovering one such a thrill. A geode typically looks like any other rock. This makes it a challenge to identify one in the field.
There are many opportunities to successfully hunt for geodes though. And when you crack open the stone and see the crystals inside, you get a wonderful reward.
Where to Look for Geodes
Before you can start scouring the ground for geodes, you need to be sure you are looking in the right place. There are geodes throughout the world, but they are most commonly located in deserts, volcanic ash beds, and areas rich in limestone. It is also common to find them in lake and river beds.
If you are located in the USA, you will probably have particular luck in the southwest in states like California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. You can find geodes in lots of other states, though. Iowa’s state rock is the geode!
Still not sure where to begin? Drop by a local ranger station or welcome center in your area and ask around. The guides working there may well know exactly what area to direct you to. They may also have helpful handouts you can take with you to help you track down geodes and other stones.
Equip Yourself for Success
Picked a spot to search? Don’t head out the door until you have stocked up on the equipment you need. Technically, you don’t really need anything but a bag for collecting, since you can just use a heavier rock to crack open a geode.
That said, a hammer and a rock pick are great tools to bring along. The rock pick will help you achieve a more symmetrical break. The hammer helps with the pick. Safety goggles are wise too, rock splinters are no joke!
You also may want to think about bringing along a camera and a GPS device. This will allow you to log your expeditions for your own future reference and to share with other geode hunting enthusiasts.
Recognizing Geodes in the Field
Once you are out searching for geodes, what do you look for? Geodes are typically rounded, though not necessarily perfectly round. Sometimes they are shaped like an egg. They are almost never sharp. Look for a lumpy texture on the outside of the rock.
Very smooth rocks usually are not geodes. Extremely rough, jagged rocks typically are not either. You can compare the texture to that of a cauliflower.
If you spot a good candidate, pick it up and feel the weight of it in your hand. Lift another rock which is similar in size and shape and looks like it is made of roughly the same material. How do the two compare? If your candidate rock is lighter, that may mean it is a geode.
Even if it isn’t, you still may want to try breaking it, because it could be a beautiful agate!
Breaking Your Geode Open
There are a number of different ways that you can open your rock to find out what’s inside. This is the super exciting part!
Note that it does not take a massive amount of force to get a geode open. Remember, the rock is hollow inside. If you apply too much force, you will smash it to smithereens.
- With a saw. There are hand-powered saws you can purchase for this purpose, but you probably don’t want to use those. It is after all a rock you are trying to cut. You can purchase a mechanical rock saw though or you can try using a mechanical tile saw. This is what you should do if you want a nice clean straight cut. Obviously you cannot do this in the field.
- Get someone else to saw your geode. Don’t want to saw open your geode yourself, but want that nice clean cut? Some rock shops will do it for a small fee.
- Use a sock. This method is both fun and safe! Grab a sock and put your rock inside, then take a hammer and have at it. This method contains the mess neatly inside the sock and prevents fragments from flying around and getting into someone’s eye (though protective goggles are still advised). This is a perfect method if you are geode hunting with kids.
- Use a pick and hammer. This is one of the most popular methods out there. Place your rock pick in the middle of the rock, then use the hammer. Move the pick in a circular fashion around the rock as you go. This will help you get an even cut. If you do not own a proper rock pit, don’t fret. You can use a standard flat-faced chisel and still get excellent results.
- Soil pipe cutter. Have a soil pipe cutter with a long handle? Wrap the chain around your geode and apply pressure. This is a very good method since you usually get a relatively clean break, and it’s also fast and easy. Why doesn’t everyone do this? The reason it is not commonly recommended is because it is not a cheap tool. Still, it is the professional method-of-choice for many rock vendors.
- Smash it with another rock. If you don’t care about an even cut (sometimes a rough cut is cooler anyway), or you are impatient or lacking tools, you can simply smash the potential geode with another heavier rock. Don’t go at it too hard though or your geode may fragment into a lot of little pieces (this is also why you do not want to simply drop it from a height or throw it against a rock wall).
Is there anything else you should know about geode hunting? Probably the single most important thing to remember is to be patient. It will take you a while before you get really good at identifying geodes.
In the beginning, you will mistake a lot of regular rocks for geodes. You also will probably need some time to learn how to break them right. In the beginning, try not to get too down if you find yourself with a few shattered beauties.
Over time you will get it down! You will get better and better at discovering and breaking geodes. Every time you do, you will have unearthed a one-of-a-kind treasure. This is a fun activity to do on your own or with friends and family.
Geodes are great to collect and also make wonderful gifts. So have fun, and good luck!