Attached Message
From: Jake Klim <>
Subject: TWC - fairburn agates
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2007 12:03:31 -0700 (PDT)
I am working on a television series for The Weather Channel. Our next show will focus on the Great Plains and we intend to do a majority of our filming near the Badlands NP area. I found you website/email address online...
I wanted to know whether or not there were any weather connections between fairburn agates and the local climate? Do you only find agates in certain areas affected by weather? How do you know where to look? Does rain help/hinder your search? How do you know where, exactly, to look?
There may not be a weather connection, but someone in the NP system suggested I talk with someone who knows more about this subject...can you shed any light?
Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks you.
Jake Klim
Coordinating Producer - Weatherventures
HORIZON Entertainment
6225 Executive Blvd
Rockville , Md 20852


John A. Klim (Jake)

Fred's Response to John A. Klim's email


Greetings, Jake,

You are going to have a great time in the Badlands.  Watching massive thunder cells all around you while basking in sunshine is pretty awesome.  We've seen some nice double-rainbows.  And from the Badlands you can see the Black Hills rising to the west.  The Hills create their own localized weather, so watching the Hills fade in and out through their own little storm can be quite a view.

With fairburns often going for over $100 an ounce, you won't find many people willing to talk specifics.  Money can be hard to come by there, one stone may take days to find and will feed your family for at least a couple weeks.  And there is a big weather connection.

You must know that area is an area of extremes.  Flash floods to bitter cold to no snow cover in the deep of winter.  If you are hunting fairburns on higher ground, the topsoil can turn as hard as concrete.  In this case, there is little cattle grazing,and where they do graze, stones are part of the concrete.  When things get wet, the cattle get more active, kicking over rocks.  The rocks are also easier to roll out of their pocket.  A bleak looking drab stone may hide a gem-like pattern until it's rolled a steer.  I was taught this by the owner of a rock shop in Hermosa, just west of Fairburn.  Fires can also expose them.  A type of "fairburn-like" agate known as "Teepee Canyon" just became very cheap due to large burns.

Another good trick is to follow creek beds and dry washes.  Badlands mud is sticky "gumbo" when it is wet.  A creek at flood stage has got to be the siltiest water in the world, looking a lot like a cup of hot cocoa.  Sage Creek in the northwest corner of Badlands National Park is a great example of this.  A good flood erodes banks and switches channels exposing agates hidden before they had monetary value.  Once the flood is over, you can walk the creek bed looking for rock-bars.  But as the creek lowered, the silt made all the rocks a drab powdery-white and they all look the same.  So now a decent size storm will wash them off and they become a tantalizing array of prairie agates, fairburns, jasper, fossils and petrified wood. short...a good flash flood...a dry spell and then a medium rain.  Best is to be out there during or just after the rain...and use the reflection of the sun to show you the patterns.

One last tidbit is that the area can get lots of snow, resulting in melt in the middle of winter.  The gound becomes uncovered with fresh stones being exposed...and few tourists or "working folk" to compete for them.  Unfortunately, both Jennie and I work winters and can't drop everything to rush to the area when this occurs.  But those locals who can take advantage of the February thaw have good hunting.  You can almost time e-Bay auctions with this weather pattern...and in January you'll see e-Bay descriptions like "found last week at Railroad Butte."

Enjoy...there is no place on earth like the Badlands/Black Hills.

Oh, and one thing you may want to emphasize.  I mentioned Sage Creek in the northwest corner of the park.  No matter how tempting, collecting of any kind (especially fossils) inside the park is highly illegal.  The area is surrounded by Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, which is fair game.  Also, one must get permission to hunt on the Red Shirt Indian Reservation.  The Grasslands Visitors Center in Wall, SD, can give the casual hunter the specifics of areas off-limits, and what kind of fossils can or can't be collected.


Fred Dorau, CBET (aka "Rockhardagatehunter")

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