Guide to Finding a Petoskey Stone (and Charlevoix Stones, too)
Michigan’s state stone, the Petoskey stone (and its lesser-known cousin, the Charlevoix stone), are favored unique treasures for beach-goers on the Great Lakes.
Wander just about any shore of Lake Michigan in the spring and summer and you’re bound to find rock hounds, eyes down and scouring the beach, trying to find a Petoskey Stone.
Though elusive and sometimes tricky to find. They sometimes look like ordinary limestone, too, unless they’re wet. That’s when the tell-tale pattern pops out: a tightly-packed six-sided design. Once-living coral, Petoskey stones (the official state stone) remain a beloved symbol of our Great Lakes from more than 350 million years ago.
How to Find Petoskey Stones
Luckily, for rock-hounds and fossil-hunters, the shores of Michigan are vast. Wherther you visit a Lake Michigan beach, or a Lake Huron beach, you’re chances for locating a Petoskey are good if you know how to look.
From well-known spots like Charlevoix and the Leelanau Peninsula, where the beaches are scattered with these fossils, to quieter places like Lexington on Michigan’s blue thumb coast, there are many Petoskey stones still waiting to be found.
So how do you find the elusive Petoskey stone?
Read on to discover more about Petoskey Stones and where to find them.
What are Petoskey Stones?
About 350 million years ago, Michigan was actually located near the equator, and a warm, shallow, tropical sea covered the land. Here, massive colonies of rugose coral (hexagonaria percarinata) thrived in reefs. It is the fossils of these corals in the coral colony that make a Petoskey stone.
Petoskey stones are unique rocks that sport a tightly-packed hexagonal pattern all over their surface. This pattern is the fossilized pattern of the prehistoric rugose corals.
Each hexagon on a Petoskey stone was once a coral polyp and the dark center of each one of the coral polyps was once the mouth, which used tentacles to feed the coral.
Legend of the Petoskey Stone
Petoskey Stones are deeply embeded in the native American folklore of Michigan. Legend has it that the Petoskey Stone was named for Odawa Indian chief Pet-O-Sega, who owned the land that became the city of Petoskey, MI.
Born to a French fur trader father and Odawa Indian mother, the rays of the sun,” translated to “pet-o-sega,” filtered across his face as he entered the world. The sun rays, or, “sunbeams of promise,” signified his promise of a life of greatness, which he fulfilled.
Tips for Finding Petoskey Stones
Know How to Identify a Petoskey Stone or a Charlevoix Stone
Petoskey stones and Charlevoix stones look a lot alike. Both are beautiful and great finds, but knowing the differences can ensure you get exactly what you’re looking for.
Though they are both fossilized corals from approximately the same time in history, there are subtle differences. The easiest way to tell the difference is that Charlevoix stones have a smaller hexagonal exoskeleton pattern compared to Petoskey stones.
Avoid the Sandy Beaches When Hunting Petoskey Stones
Michigan is home to many beautiful sandy beaches where people enjoy sunbathing and swimming. Leave those beaches to sun and fun and instead explore smaller, rockier beaches.
Additionally, you should know that Petoskey’s are not exclusive to the waterline, check the shore before the water and even in surrounding areas near uprooted trees or any other disrupted soil.
The average stone hunter won’t think to look in these lesser-known spots, so you’ll have a better chance of finding some Petoskey stones for yourself.
Look for Petoskey’s After Storms
Beachcombing after a storm is the best time if you’re looking for Petoskey stones. The patterns on Petoskey and Charlevoix stones are more easily seen when the rocks are wet, making rain your friend in this search.
Storms in particular are best though, because the wind and waves disrupt the sand and allow Petoskey stones to wash up on shore or surface from under the sand. Just be sure the sky is clear of lightning before heading out to the water.
Go Where People Don’t Go
Petoskey stones are no secret, and many people flock to beaches in hopes to collect some, which can make them hard to find. I like Petoskey hunting on the rocky beaches north of Alpena.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to discover some new secret spot, though.
Instead, simply moving down the beach away from areas near parking lots and beach access points can benefit your search, since these areas are less likely to have been picked over by other beachgoers.
Where There’s One Petoskey Stone, There Are Probably More
They are often found in clusters. If you find one, keep looking; you may be able to take home a few, just be careful not to take too many.
Be mindful of other fossil-hunters and the Michigan beach environment. Allow others to enjoy the beauty of Michigan’s beaches and the joy of finding their own treasure in the Petoskey stone.
Know the Laws About Taking Rocks from Michigan Beaches
The state laws say you cannot collect more than 25lbs of stones, minerals, or fossils per year from Michigan beaches. This is a state-wide law, but each beach or state park will have their own policies.
These regulations can include the collection of Petoskey’s, Charlevoix stones, or other matter from the beaches, so be sure to check the local laws or park policies before taking home a souvenir.
Where to Find Petoskey Stones
As the name suggests, Petoskey is a popular destination for rock-hunters looking for the state stone. The beaches of Charlevoix are also popular, but you’re still more likely to find a Petoskey stone, since Charlevoix stones are the rarer of the two.
These stones are not limited to their namesake locations, however, and appear in many places along the northern Lake Michigan shore.
Here are some of the best locations for finding Petoskey or Charlevoix stones:
- Mt. McSauba Beach
- Lake Michigan Beach
- Beaver Island
- Fisherman’s Island State Park
- North Point Nature Preserve
- Petoskey State Park
- Magnus City Park Beach
- Bay Front & Sunset Park
- Pt. Bestie Lighthouse
- Empire Beach
- Leelanau State Park
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Orchard Beach State Park
Find More Unique Michigan Stones and Rocks
Have you heard about Michigan’s mysterious glowing rocks? They’re called Yooperlite, and you can find them throughout Michigan, but mostly in the Upper Peninsula.
They’re made up of mostly syenite rock, which is similar to granite, which means the rock looks like any other dark stones or typical gray rock, but there’s a twist. Yooperlites are rich with fluorescent sodalite, which glows a vibrant orange or yellow under Ultraviolet Light.
These glow-in-the-dark deposits of sodalite can form various patterns, including sparsely spotted, geometric lines, and an all-over sort of pattern reminiscent of a galaxy somewhere in space.
Each stone is unique and may even host a mix of patterns of the fluorescent sodalite, adding to the ever-growing list of what makes this glowing rock so magnificent.
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About the Author–
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.
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