Kern Agate Beds
The Kern Beds near the town of Fairburn, South Dakota have become world famous for producing beautiful Fairburn Agates. Although heavily hunted, trophy agates are found here every year.
When to visit: Spring, Fall, Winter (if dry), Summer (if cool)
What you can find: Fairburn agate, prairie agate, bubblegum agate, petrified wood, jasper, rose quartz.
What to bring: Rock hammer, spray bottle, backpack, water, snacks.
Where to stay: Rapid City is an hour to the north, while Hot Springs is an hour to the South. Both offer full amenities. French Creek Campground is a free campground at the main entrance to the beds and has room for RV or tent camping. The only amenities are a pit toilet.
Getting there: From Rapid City, South Dakota head south on SD-79 approximately 26 miles until you reach the exit for the town of Fairburn. Turn left onto Co Hwy 18/N Fairburn Rd. After 2.9 miles in the town of Fairburn, turn left onto pine street, then after 0.2 miles turn left onto 3rd street which becomes E. French Creek road after 0.4 miles. Stay on E French Creek Road for 10.7 miles until you come to the turn off for French Creek Campground (Site A). Turn left and follow signs through the campground. At the end of the campground you will come to a crossing for French Creek. 4WD is recommended past this point. A short drive to the top of the hills brings you to the main entrance of the Kern Agate Beds (Site B).
The Kern Agate Beds at French Creek Campground are the most popular Fairburn Agate Hunting spot in the grasslands and for good reason. Despite being heavily hunted many nice Fairburn are still found here every year. To improve your chance of finding a nice agate cover as much ground as possible. The further you can get away from where others have hunted, the better chances you will have. That being said, the main parking area (Site B) is known to produce agates every year. Another way to increase your chances of success is to visit as soon as possible after a rain storm or snow melt off. As it goes the early bird gets the worm and those who get the first look at freshly exposed rock can be greatly rewarded. Be careful however as the wet gumbo in the area can be hard for most vehicles to navigate. Due to being a popular tourist spot you will not find as much nicely colored rose quartz or jasper in this area, however it is still possible. Be sure to check rock exposures in the grass and other low lying areas that may often be overlooked.