Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands: Fairburn Agate Beds

It was raining when Noelle and I woke up this morning. We weren’t sure just what to do with our day off. We knew that we had things to do in Rapid City and so I suggested that we drive north into Rapid on SD-79 and make a detour to see if we could find some Fairburn Agates. I’ve heard that the best time to look is just after a good rain. So we set off around 9:30, unsure of where exactly near Fairburn to look for agates. To tell the truth, neither of us knew exactly what agates even looked like.

We hit the road and made it into the “big city” of Fairburn, South Dakota by about 10:30. I had looked at a map of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands when at the Information Desk at work and knew of a campground along County Road 18, east of Fairburn. In town we found a county road, but it wasn’t 18. We decided to follow it anyway. After driving east for about 6 miles we decided it wasn’t the right road, and so we turned around. When we got back into town we immediately found County 18 and soon thereafter saw a sign pointing the way to the French Creek Campground and Agate Beds. The ride was pretty. The National Grassland was not flat like I had imagined, but featured many small hills and canyons. Along the drive we saw some pronghorn, an owl, kestrels, larks, and many meadowlarks. As we headed farther east we started to see some badlands like buttes and formations.
Finally we arrived at the campground and Agate Beds.
fairburn agate beds pano
We parked at the campground and hiked along a muddy, rutted road to the beds.
It was fantastic scenery at the agate beds. It reminded me of the badlands one might find in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. They were multi-colored and banded. Some of the badlands formations were covered with pebbly stones.
Others were covered in the beautiful gumbo lilies.
We searched among the stones for what we thought might be agates and added a few to our collection that we just thought looked pretty. After about an hour of exploring we started to hike back to the car. The continuing rain made the clay-filled soil stick to our boots. We just might have to return to do some more exploring of this area in the future.


Still Wandering said...

It's great out there eh? I've had some fun picking up some cool rocks there and it's so peaceful! how is wica life????

Eric and Noelle Grunwald said...

WICA life is treating us well so far. It's been quite cool and rainy thus far. I'm actually looking forward to the hot temps of summer.