By Melissa Ganje
MOOSE LAKE - They are more than a billion years old and found right here in the Northland. At Moose Lake State Park., a Gem and Mineral Center connects people with geology.
"Agates are ambassadors to the world of geology; they speak loudly with their color and their beauty to the wonders of nature," said Moose Lake State Park manager Don Del Greco. Minnesota's gemstone, the Lake Superior Agate has found a home in Moose Lake. "We have a unique facility that tells the story of Minnesota's gems and minerals through the eyes of Lake Superior agates," said Del Greco. At the Moose Lake State Park Agate and Geological Interpretive Center, thousands of agates, rocks and gemstones are displayed and preserved. "People in this particular area, had the passion and the dream and the desire to see a gem and mineral center located in the heart of Lake Superior agate country," said Del Greco.
Since the center opened in 2003, Del Greco says park attendance has grown from 50,000 to more than 70,000 visitors a year. "Our revenues are up; we are finding more and more people excited about pursuing the discovery, the search and then really contemplating the wonder and the beauty of Lake Superior agates." Chris Merten of Sunrise says, "The kids are interested in rocks and collecting rocks so I though it would be fun for them to come here." It's an educational, interpretive center for those young and old to enjoy. "It's cool, I mean, when I'm looking at this one, it looks like there is like little circles," said Jack Lacoursiere of Albertville. "When you find an agate, you are the 1st person in a billion years to pick it up," said Del Greco. He says the Lake Superior Agate is more than a billion years old, formed in volcanic lava flows in northern Minnesota. "They have colors and characteristics and complexities and patterns that rival all the different types of agates of the world so they truly are a very beautiful gemstone," said Del Greco. "This one looks cool," said Lacoursiere.
Del Greco says the Agate Hall of Fame tells the story of Lake Superior Agates found recently in the Carlton County area. "It is a display of photographs of people who have come through our doors wanting to share their stories about recent agates they have found. We have young and old alike; we have large and small agates, spectacular agates and even those ones that don't seem to shine as much as others," said Del Greco. But no matter what the size, whether it's in the raw or polished, Del Greco says every agate is a gift of nature. Every gem and mineral is donated by collectors across the state to share the beauty of Minnesota's geological history with future generations.
Moose Lake State Park is hosting an open house in conjunction with "Agate Days," July 18-19. Admission to the park and geological center will be free that weekend.
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