Michigan is known for its unique offerings from nature. One of the Mitten’s many gifts is the Petoskey stone. The Petoskey stone is one of the most unique, beautiful, and difficult stones to find in Michigan. When dry, they look similar to an ordinary piece of limestone. When polished, their distinct hexagonal pattern is clearly recognizable. Their exclusive pattern is what makes them a sought-after treasure by beach goers and rock collectors, and it’s so beautiful and distinct that they are typically made into decorations and jewelry. Locals love them so much that they even have their own festival in May in Eastport, Michigan. Summer is the best time to hunt for Petoskey stones. Now we can’t find them for you, but below are insights and tips into all things Petoskey.
What exactly are Petoskey stones?
The Petoskey stone is both a rock and a fossil. Over 350 million years ago, Michigan was located near the equator, where the coral Hexagonaria Percarinata was in full bloom. After Earth’s plates shifted, the surface in which this coral grew was pushed above sea level and into the 45th parallel, creating what is now Northern Michigan. Over 100 million years later, it is assumed that glaciation scraped the Earth’s surface and deposited these fossils along the dunes and shorelines of the Lower Northern Peninsula. The outer rings, or the six-sided corallites, are the skeletons of the once-living coral polyps. The center was the mouth, which once reached out for food, but eventually absorbed dirt and gravel and hardened over time.
History of the Petoskey stone
Petosegay was an Ottawan Indian Chief and his legend is the reasoning for the name “Petoskey.” As the legend goes, when Chief Petosegay was born, light beamed upon his face and he was given the name Petosegay, meaning “rays of the rising sun” in Ottawa. This coincides with the stone’s shapes and features. Petosegay established the town Petoskey, meaning “sunbeams of promise” – where the stones are in abundance.
In June 1965, the Petoskey stone officially became the state stone of Michigan.
Where to Hunt for Petoskey stones
Petoskey stones are known for their presence in the northwestern parts of the Lower Peninsula. As the scientific explanation states, they are more prevalent at the 45th parallel because of the glacier movements millions of years ago. This means the best spots for them are on the shores of Lake Michigan and West and East Grand Traverse Bays. Specifically, anywhere from the shores of the Frankfort area to Petoskey have been known for success. These towns and local beaches include Glen Arbor, Traverse City, Empire, Leland, Old Mission Peninsula, Elk Rapids, Torch Lake, and Charlevoix. It is best to go to places like Petoskey State Park, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Fisherman’s State Park (Charlevoix) beaches where there is less traffic and more shoreline. The stones have also been found in the Manistee and Pine Rivers.
Petoskey Hunting Tips
- It is important to note that the Petoskey is not only found on shorelines. There have been known findings in mud puddles and gravel along dirt roads. The best way to find them is to go out on a rainy day to dirt roads and rock piles so that the details can appear.
- There is a 25 pound yearly limit of Petoskey stone removal from state land established by the DNR. Make sure you are staying under the limit and aware of trespassing on property as well.
- Bring a strainer when you are out sifting for your “Michigan gold.” You will find Petoskey stones washed up on the beach; however, the real beauties are usually between ankle and knee-deep water. The strainer will allow you to bring up the rocks and sift to see if there are Petoskey’s and throw the ones you don’t want. You’ll be able to go through more stones than you would with your two hands, which usually means more stones to take home!
- Wearing water shoes is crucial. Not only is the water typically cold, most beaches are taken over by rocks both large and small, which can be hard on feet. Rocky beaches are where these beautiful stones are generally found… so the more rocks, the better!
- Bring a spray bottle to dampen dry rocks. As stated before, when dry, Petoskey stones can be almost impossible to find as they look like limestone. Try looking for dry rocks that are on the beach and off the shore that may have been overlooked by other hunters.
- Petoskey stones have a sister stone – the Charlevoix stone. It is important to know the difference. Charlevoix stones will have smaller circular features and patterns than Petoskey stones. They are a part of the same fossil kingdom, but they are essentially different.
Petoskey stone hunting begins when the snow melts and ends when the snow falls. For those who struggle to find them, or just simply want one for their collection without all the hassle, Petoskey stones can be purchased at many local shops in Northern Michigan. Share your Petoskey hunting tips, beaches, shops, and findings with us on our Facebook page.