Dec 05 2011
Last weekend we got to do something that’s been on my want-to-do list for some time. It’s something unique to the area we visited, and without perusing the visitor guide and website of the small town of Little Falls, Minnesota, I never would have heard of it.
You see, the banks of the Mississippi River south of Little Falls have something very unique, a special kind of rock called staurolite, that is found in a select few places around the world. This staurolite stone breaks at clean angles of 60 and 90 degrees, resulting in some cross-shaped pieces. Known commonly as “fairy crosses,” these stones are sought out as good-luck charms. The Little Falls website has more information about the stones and some photos of excellent examples of the crosses.
The article about the Fairy Crosses in the Little Falls Visitor’s Guide (which arrived mere days after I requested it online) had directions to get to the Blanchard Dam, where the stones can be found. Follow the directions found there or on their website–8.6 miles south on Hilton Road, then right toward the river on 86th St, which is a dead-end road. At the end of the road there’s a parking lot and a path to a canoe landing.
We didn’t know just what we were looking for, except for a photo or two I’d seen of the cross rocks, so we just started randomly searching the rocks along the river bank. I forgot to take a photo of what we were searching through, but it was very similar to what awelnick on Flickr shows in her photo.
At 30 degrees and breezy, it wasn’t warm by the river, so we were searching for the rocks with gloved hands and wearing winter coats.
At first we just wandered and looked, not knowing what size these rocks would be or how hidden they were. Suddenly, I came upon a diamond-shaped piece of stone, dark brown in color, and we knew we were in the right area. Though not a full cross, these diamonds are another shape that the staurolite stones break into.
The stones were smaller than I’d expected, and we learned that we’d have to dig a little deeper to find more. Once we started lifting and moving stones, we had more success. Most of our dozen or so pieces were found in two small areas, though we still had to look carefully to find these.
After thirty minutes of searching, our family had collected a handful of staurolite pieces.
Though none constituted full crosses, two of them came close and we could see how the diamond shapes criss-cross each other to make the more perfect specimens. My ten-year-old son found our best one.
Despite the cold weather, this was a good family adventure, spending time along the banks of the Mississippi River and searching for the elusive fairy crosses. I hope we’ll return again someday to try our luck again.
Though staurolite isn’t commonly found, there are a few other places in the United States where you can try your hand at finding fairy crosses. Staurolite is the state mineral of Georgia, and Virginia has its own Fairy Stone State Park. For Minnesotans who want to try their luck at finding these special stones, however, a trip to Little Falls is all that’s needed.