Rockhounding Near Chicago, IL: 12 Places To Hunt Rocks, Crystals, and Fossils

With Lake Michigan and an abundance of rivers, there are a lot of neat things to find along the shorelines in and around Chicago.

And, if you are willing to drive for an hour or two, central Illinois and some of the surrounding states have even more exciting rockhounding destinations. 

Rockhounding Near Chicago (A Visitor’s Guide)

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.

Lake Michigan Beaches in Chicago, IL

Distance from Chicago: within the city limits

What you may find: zebra mussels, slag, granite, crinoids, petoskey stones, jasper, stromatoporoids, honeycomb corals, syringopora, agates.

The shores of Lake Michigan are a great place to start rockhounding around the city.

A lot of the beaches designed for public swimming have sand dumped onto the shores periodically, covering rock access.

Also, it is best to search during low tide, as more of the shore will be accessible.

Some good beaches to check out are Montrose, Kathy Osterman, and Loyola. 

Elmhurst Quarry in Elmhurst, IL

Distance from Chicago: 20 miles (approximately 30 minutes by car)

What you may find: limestone, granite, agate.

This is a privately-owned quarry, owned by the Elmhurst-Chicago Stone Company.

Half of the quarry is used for flood control purposes with very limited public access.

They do have rare tours of this portion of the facility, so be on the lookout for that.

The other half of the quarry is in use, with some tours for the public available. 

Lafarge/Conco Quarry in North Aurora, IL

Distance from Chicago: 40 miles (approximately 45 minutes by car)

What you may find: bornite, calcite, chalcopyrite, pyrite.

Located beside the Fox River, this quarry has a lot of potential for interesting discoveries.

This land is privately owned by the Conco Western Stone Company, so access to the quarry may be limited, but people have reported the staff there to be kind and helpful. 

Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, IL

Distance from Chicago: 46 miles (approximately 1 hour by car)

What you may find: agate, dolomite, basalt, conglomerate fossil stones.

The park ranger of this beach in Zion has been quoted saying that the shores are full of agates.

This has been a contested statement by some rockhounds, while others have confirmed their word.

This park is 6.5 miles of coastline with some dunes and marshlands.

Since the area is so large, it is broken down into the North and South area, with designated parking lots for each spot.

So, you can break up your rockhounding trip into two parts if the many miles of the shore seems too daunting.

This is a great public park to travel to if you are looking for some unique rocks. 

Along Mazon River in Grundy County, IL

Distance from Chicago: 67 miles (approximately 1.25 hours by car) 

What you may find: fossils (Tully Monster).

Avid rockhounds in Illinois frequently talk about the Mazon River and the fossils that can be found there.

The abundance of the Tully Monster fossil has made it the state’s official fossil.

Tullimonstrum, nicknamed Tully Monsters, lived in muddy estuaries around 300 million years ago.

There may be other interesting finds along the shore of the river, but the forums are all abuzz about the fossil possibilities. 

Mazonia-Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area in Braceville, IL

Distance from Chicago: 67 miles (approximately 1.25 hours by car) 

What you may find: fossils (Tully Monster).

This is a public park along the same Mazon River previously mentioned.

This area is used mainly for hunting and fishing.

This may be a good stop on your rockhounding journey, especially if you are already interested in looking for fossils along the Mazon throughout Grundy County. 

Quarry Lake Park in Racine, WI

Distance from Chicago: 85 miles (approximately 1.5 hours by car)

What you may find: gem crystal, fossils, calcite crystals, marcasite crystals, agates.

Racine is a small town seated beside the coast of Lake Michigan.

They have a lot of convenient public beach access as well as lots of quarries around for rockhounding.

Quarry Lake Park is just one example of a stop in Racine for rockhounds.

This is a former quarry turned into a swimming area, so it is best to go in the summer to get the full enjoyment of the park in addition to finding some neat minerals. 

Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, IL

Distance from Chicago: 93 miles (approximately 1.5 hours by car)

What you may find: slag, sandstone, agate, chert.

This is a popular tourist destination in the state of Illinois.

With giant sandstone canyons and many large waterfalls, there is a lot for a geology enthusiast to see here.

There are long hiking paths with clear indications, and it is highly encouraged to stay on these trails.

There is also a creek that runs through the park.

This is a large lot of land, with a lot of areas to explore, and a lot of treasures to find. 

Matthiessen State Park in Oglesby, IL

Distance from Chicago: 93 miles (approximately 1.5 hours by car)

What you may find: slag, sandstone, agate, chert.

Right next door to Starved Rock is the beautiful Matthiessen State Park.

If you are headed down to Oglesby to check out Starved Rock, be sure to hit Matthiessen before heading home.

Starved Rock is the most widely-known, and, because of this, many tourists and nature enthusiasts miss out on all that this park has to offer. 

Pilgrim Haven in South Haven, Michigan

Distance from Chicago: 120 miles (approximately 2 hours by car)

What you may find: lightning stones, unakite, epidote, quartz, petoskey stones.

This public park has miles of pebbled-beach shore access alongside a beech-maple forest.

The area is very open and there are a lot of diverse areas to explore and find neat treasures.

They encourage people to try to stay on the concrete paths going to and from the shoreline to prevent erosion of the forest and surrounding grasslands.

There is also a trail going through the woods for more nature exploring and discovery. 

Big Pine Creek in Rainsville, IN 

Distance from Chicago: 115 Miles (approximately 2.25 hours by car) 

What you may find: sphalerite, barite, fossilized wood, siderite, marcasite, pyrite.

This is a sizeable creek, with around 7.5 miles in length between the Rainsville Bridge and Twin Bridges.

The water levels of this creek are said to fluctuate pretty frequently, so it is advised to go rockhounding there when it is drier, mostly in the summer.

In the rainy seasons, the creek is used for some challenging whitewater canoeing, so it is best to rockhound during a time when the canoers are out of your way and the water levels are more agreeable.

If you are willing to make the drive out here, the experience can prove to be rather rewarding, as there is a lot that can be found here. 

Pier Cove in Fennville, MI

Distance from Chicago: 137 miles (approximately 2.25 hours by car)

What you may find: lightning stones, unakite, epidote, quartz, petoskey stones.

Pier Cove is a public beach with lots of shore access and a small creek that leads into the lake.

This location is best known for its lightning stones, also known as septarian nodules.

Pier Cove itself used to be a village but is now a ghost town, making it possible to find some long-abandoned historic artifacts in the area. 

Summary

Forget what the forums say about the Chicagoland area and how it is a bad place for Rockhounds.

There are plenty of opportunities to discover rocks, minerals, fossils, and more.

Follow the shorelines and embark on an exciting journey! 

See also: 11 Types Of Rocks You Find In Illinois

rockhounding near chicago