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Famous for its rich copper deposits and extensive iron ore deposits, Michigan is an excellent place for rockhounds. You may also find jasper, chert, banded agates, Petoskey stones, and many more. But where exactly can you rockhound in Michigan, and what can you find?
The Northern side of Michigan is particularly interesting for amateur geologists. The Upper Peninsula is where you can find the Petoskey stones, the state’s official rock. You can also find chlorastrolite, agates, beach glass, gold, geodes, amethysts, pudding stones, topaz, beryl, tourmaline, quartz, shark teeth, and other fossils.
Now that we saw how many interesting things we can find in Michigan let’s pack our stuff and start rockhounding in the Wolverine State!
Where to Go Rock Hunting in Michigan?
Michigan is a prosperous state from a geological point of view. Rockhounds can find exciting things all over the place, especially in the Upper Peninsula. A simple walk on one of Lake Michigan’s beaches might turn out into treasure hunting.
Different types of rocks, gemstones, crystals, or fossils can be found in this state. Whether going on a rockhounding trip or just visiting with the family, you can find numerous Michigan attractions.
Even the glass pieces scattered on the beaches are naturally tumbled and polished so that you can add them to your rock collection.
Let’s see what are the most exciting locations, from a geological point of view.
A passionate rockhound should visit Marquette County at least once in a lifetime. Also known as the Rockhounds Paradise, this county has many points of attraction for amateur geologists.
Significant goethite deposits are found in this county, particularly in Jackson Pit and on Cliff’s Drive.
In the abandoned dumps of Holmes and Cliff Shaft Mine, you can find cuttable blue steel ore. However, permission is required before searching for rocks in these two places.
You can look for jaspilite on Jasper Knob, near the Negaunee Tourist Park, S. Jackson Pitt, and near the Greenwood Mine.
You can rockhound for magnetite, grunerite, martite crystals, or aphrosiderite garnets in the area near Greenwood Mine and Champion Mine.
Marquette County is the home of many bismuth, cadmium, cobalt, copper, and gold mines. If you are interested in panning for gold, you can test your luck in the area surrounding the Ropes mine in Ishpeming. Placer gold can be found throughout several creeks and streams.
Another point of interest for a rockhound is Isle Royale, located in Keweenaw County. This is the place where you can find Michigan’s official gemstone, the chlorastrolite, or the Isle Royale Greenstone.
However, since the area is included in the Isle Royale National Park, collecting these gemstones is not allowed.
There’s no need to despair; you can collect chlorastrolite from most of the mines’ dumps at Keweenaw. Good quality specimens can be found in the Central Mine located near Calumet.
Isle Royale is famous for its copper deposits, but you cannot dig for them or collect them. Other minerals present on the island are porphyrite, barite, calcite, datolite, natrolite, prehnite, epidote, and many more.
Even though you cannot dig or collect rocks from this place, it is still worth visiting. Hiking, paddling, or admiring the wildlife are some of the activities you can do here. Due to extreme weather conditions, Isle Royale is closed to visitors during the winter season.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
The Best Rock Hunting on Lake Michigan
The area surrounding Lake Michigan is one of the best places for rockhounds. These Southwest beaches offer beautiful stones to collectors. Rock hunting on Lake Michigan can be very satisfying as you may find agates, corals, quartz, or obsidian.
Petoskey stone, the state’s official rock since 1966, may be collected from the Fisherman’s Island State Park near Charlevoix or the south end of the beach from Petoskey State Park.
Apart from the previously mentioned rocks and minerals, you can also find fossils, ores, septarian brown rocks, geodes, chalcedony, granite, and many more.
Some of the best places for rockhounding in the area are Van’s Beach, Empire Beach, or Lake Superior’s beaches – Point Betsie Lighthouse Beach, or Frankfort Public Beach.
Let’s see what gemstones you can find on Lake Michigan.
TIP: Some beach rocks could be encrusted with broken shells, mud, or other deposits. Check out the complete guide on how to clean beach rocks in the article below:
Cleaning Rocks From the Beach: 7 Ways How to Do It Properly
What Gemstones Are Found on Lake Michigan?
Now that we saw the best places for rockhounding and what treasures an amateur geologist can find in Michigan, it is time to check what gemstones are present in the area.
A wide variety of gemstones can be found on Lake Michigan’s shorelines and other areas of the state.
Chlorastrolite, or the Isle Royale greenstone, is the state’s official gemstone since 1973. It can be found along the shore of Lake Superior and on Isle Royale. However, Michigan is the only place where chlorastrolite can be collected.
Lake Superior agate is another interesting gemstone. Present on Lake Superior’s shorelines and in the Upper Peninsula, this is a gemstone that any collector appreciates.
Other gemstones found in Michigan are chrysocolla, beryl, hematite, malachite, quartz, jasper, and diamonds, just to name a few.Check the below table to see what gemstones can be collected from Michigan.
|Chlorastrolite||Great Lakes beaches and Isle Royal National Park|
|Agates||Lake Superior shoreline: Grand Marais beach, |
Muskallonge State Park beach, Woodland Park beach
|Hematite||Lake Superior shoreline, Iron County, Houghton County|
|Diamond||Ingham County, Iron County, Kent County|
We already mentioned Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, so it is time to speak about the beaches and what treasures they hide for rockhounds to find.
TIP:One of the most beautiful rocks you can find on the beach is quartz. Find out more about how to find this beautiful rock on the beach in the article below:
Can You Find Quartz on the Beach? It Depends How You Look
The Best Rock Hunting Beaches in Michigan
In addition to the above-mentioned beaches on Lake Michigan, here are a few other options for you to go rockhounding.
- Lakeport Day Use beach
Michigan’s official rock, Petoskey stone, can be found as smooth rounded pebbles on the Lakeport Day Use beach.
- Oval Beach in Saugatuck
Another place very important for rockhounds is Oval Beach in Saugatuck. Here is where you can find different fossils and stones that are perfect for your collection. Crinoids, bryozoans, brachiopods, clam fossils, Petoskey and Charlevoix stones, clam fossils, stromatolites, or corals varieties like horn, favosite, and chain corals can be found on this beach.
- Pier Cove Beach
Pier Cove Beach reveals many wonders, especially during the Spring after the ice meltdown. Different fossils, septarian brown rocks, or gray basaltic rocks. The septarian stones are very rare and can be found only in Michigan and India.
Now that we spoke about the beaches and the treasures they hide, let’s check what rocks can be found in Michigan and where.
What Types of Rocks and Where Are Found in Michigan?
Rockhounding is about searching for special specimens of rocks, and Michigan has a lot to offer, and this is no wonder considering the age of its geological formations.
Economically important for the state’s development, these rocks are also an attraction for amateur geologists.
Lying on an old Precambrian surface, the Michigan Basin is composed of a series of sedimentary rocks. Ancient igneous and metamorphic rocks are at least 3.5 billion years old.
The state’s official rock, the Petoskey stone, is actually a fragment of a Devonian coral reef that disappeared at the Paleozoic Era’s end. During the Pleistocene, glaciers reshaped the surface of Michigan and revealed the Petoskey stones in the process.
In Michigan, you can find sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks. We will discuss each category, starting with the sedimentary rocks.
TIP: Pebbles are stones that everyone can easily find. There are kilometers of pebbles on the beaches in rivers and lakes. Find out more about pebbles in the article below:
What Sedimentary Rocks can you find in Michigan?
The Michigan Basin had a tumultuous past starting from the early Ordovician. Sediments started to settle above the Cambrian sandstones and continued to add new layers until the Jurassic period.
Coarse or sand-sized fragments, fossiliferous or chemical, Michigan has almost all the sedimentary rocks. The most important sedimentary rocks are sandstone, breccia, siltstone, limestone, dolomite, shale, chert, gypsum, and salt.
Michigan is an important player in the salt market. The Detroit Salt Mine was opened in 1910 and is located 1,100 feet under Detroit. It covers 1,500 acres underground and today is one of the safest mines for its miners. The salt deposits are also far from depletion.
Check the below table to see what sedimentary rocks you can find in Michigan and where.
|Shale||Antrim County, Charlevoix County, Branch County|
|Limestone||Menominee County, Mackinac County, Presque Isle County|
|Sandstone||Eaton County, Keweenaw County, Monroe County|
Our next topic relates to metamorphic rocks found in Michigan and the best places where you can collect them.
TIP:Finding rocks is satisfactory. But what about radioactive rocks? Do you know what are the most common radioactive rocks? Find out more in the article below:
What are Radioactive Minerals? 6 Common Radioactive Rocks
What Metamorphic Rocks You Can Find in Michigan?
Normally, metamorphic rocks are present in the Western Upper Peninsula. However, due to the glaciers moving towards the South, these rocks can be found now in any gravel pit in Michigan.
Different varieties of schists appeared due to a series of factors like the mineral composition, intensity of metamorphism, and the chemical substances involved in the process. Two good examples are the staurolite schist and the cummingtonite schist from the western northern peninsula.
The most important metamorphic rocks that you can look for in Michigan are slate, phyllite, schist, gneiss, quartzite, and marble.
Let’s see what metamorphic rocks are in Michigan and where they can be found.
|Gneiss||Marquette County, Gogebic County, Mecosta County|
|Marble||Dickinson County, Branch County|
|Schist||Dickinson County, Marquette County, Houghton County|
|Slate||Baraga County, Iron County|
The next category of rocks that we must look into is the igneous type.
What Igneous Rocks Can You Find in Michigan?
Igneous rocks can be found in Michigan at Harbour Horseshoe in Copper Beach and Black Rock Volcanic Formations in Presque Isle. So, if you look for these types of rocks, you should head towards the Upper Peninsula.
The igneous rocks you can find are granite, felsite, rhyolite, andesite, basalt, diorite, granodiorite, gabbro, or serpentine.
Diorite was quarried in Marquette County for road stones, while there is no production of granite in Michigan.
Check the below table to see what igneous rocks can be found and where they are located.
|Andesite||Keweenaw County, Ontonagon County, Gogebic County|
|Basalt||Keweenaw County, Isle Royale, Marquette County|
|Granite||Marquette County, Huron Islands|
An interesting fact about igneous rocks is that they contain different beautiful crystals, a real treasure for rockhounds. Our next topic relates to crystals and the best places where rockhounds can find them.
TIP:Did you ever think about making money by selling rocks and minerals? Do you know if it is even possible? If you are interested in this topic read the article below and find out more:
Where to Find Petoskey Stones in Michigan?
The state’s official rock, Petoskey stone, has an amazing history. Michigan was once covered by a warm saltwater sea and the colonial coral Hexagonaria Percarinata blossomed in the depths.
However, the Earth’s tumultuous development moved Michigan up north above sea level. The corals turned into beautiful sedimentary rocks, featuring patterns that resemble the sun’s rays.
Today, the Petoskey stones can be found along Lake Michigan’s beaches but also in gravel pits or farmers’ land. Some of the hot spots where you can look for these stones are Petoskey State Park, Magnus City Park Beach, and Bay Front & Sunset Park.
Can You Find Crystals in Michigan?
Yes, you can find crystals in Michigan. Moreover, the state’s official gemstone, the chlorastrolite, is a beautiful crystal with a star pattern and the shape of a turtle.
Crystals are found all over the state, hidden on the beaches or deep in the mountains. A rockhound can search for chlorastrolite on Isle Royale, agates on any Michigan beach, carnelian on Siskiwit Bay, and thomsonite (a variety of zeolite) on Thomsonite Beach.
Other important crystals spread all over the Michigan beaches and mountains are prehnite, amethyst, rose quartz, chalcedony, datolite, or epidote.
Let’s take a closer look at these rockhounding treasures and their best locations.
Different Crystals You Can Find in Michigan
We already mentioned some species of crystals, but Michigan has more to offer.
If you search the old mines’ dumps, you can find many beautiful specimens of tourmaline, beryl, garnets, topaz, and tremolite. An interesting reddish type of chert is found in Charlevoix County, on the north side of Norwood. Brown calcite crystals are present at Bayport, in Huron County.
Check the below table for some of the most important Michigan crystals and the places where you can find them.
|Quartz||Antrim County, Charlevoix County, Marquette County, Huron County|
|Beryl||Baraga County, Dickinson County, Marquette County|
|Tremolite||Dickinson County, Gogebic County, Gratiot County, Iron County|
|Chert||Leelanau County, Charlevoix County, Saginaw Bay|
As you can see, Michigan will not disappoint determined rockhounds. Furthermore, if you visit the right places, you may stumble upon some ancient fossils. Let’s check where you can find some of these.
TIP:It is always good to know where exactly is your favorite rockhounding location and how to come back to your car after rockhounding. And the best way not to get lost is to use GPS. Check out the best GPSes for rockhounding in the article below:
Best GPS For Rockhounding: 3 Best GPSes of the Year 2021
Where Can You Find Fossils in Michigan?
Michigan’s official fossil is the mastodon. During the Pleistocene, this state was the home to huge animals like mammoths and mastodons, so there is no wonder that Mammut americanum remains were chosen as the state’s symbolic fossil.
The only known mastodon trackway was discovered in Washtenaw County, near Saline. Mastodon fossils are found in the Great Lakes Region and Upper Midwest.
An interesting fact is that the Petoskey stone, the state’s official rock, is actually a fossilized coral. Hexagonaria percarinata is an example of tubular coral that formed the Paleozoic reefs.
Other fossils that can be found in the Wolverine State are the fish fossils from the Devonian period. Placoderms, antiarchs, arthrodires, ptycodonts, or acanthodians are included in the sedimentary rocks of Michigan.
Some people found shark teeth on the Michigan beaches. Good places for hunting shark teeth seem to be the area of Port Huron, Isle Royale, or Lake Michigan’s beaches.
Fossils of ferns, scale trees, and other plants are abundant in Michigan; however, no dinosaur remains were found so far.
In case you don’t want to spend time searching for fossils, you can visit the Cranbrook Institute of Science, Gitche Gumee Agate & History Museum, or the Besser Museum. A mastodon display can be seen at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Whether going on a rockhounding trip or visiting Michigan with your family, there are many opportunities to collect interesting mineral specimens.
Some of the best rockhounding sites for kids and families are the Petoskey beaches where you can find Petoskey stones, the Delaware Copper Mine where you are allowed to collect copper specimens, or the Keweenaw Peninsula, famous for its beautiful specimens of crystallized copper.
Although you are not allowed to gather rocks in some locations, or you need a permit, it is still worth visiting these places. So, pack your gear and head towards Michigan!
BTW: Check out this amazing metal sign (Amazon link) which is perfect for everyone who loves rockhounding in Michigan!
TIP:Are you looking for tips on what to buy for your loved passionate rock seekers? Find out the best and not so common tips on gifts for rockhounds in the article below:
13 Best Gifts for Rockhounds You Should Buy
The western half of the Upper Peninsula, in particular the Keweenaw Peninsula, is the best rockhouning region in Michigan. The shoreline from Ontonagon to Copper Harbor is littered with rocks of all kinds, and speaking relatively compared to other beaches in Michigan, covered in agates.
Chlorastrolite, a variety of the mineral pumpellyite, is pretty much exclusively found along the Keweenaw Peninsula and throughout the Isle Royale archipelago -- Michigan's most remote national park. Its occurrence in that region is what gives this mineral its arguably prettier common name: Isle Royale Greenstone.
The State Gemstone is chlorastrolite, a variety of the mineral pumpellyite. It also goes by the common name of greenstone or Isle Royal greenstone. The term greenstone can be confusing in that it is both a rock and a mineral term.
Michigan Emeralds and Large Garnets
There are emeralds in Michigan. Even though the colors of these emeralds are usually light they can still come in dark green to dark blue green. Theses emeralds are found in an old iron mine in Marquette County.
The Upper Peninsula is where you can find the Petoskey stones, the state's official rock. You can also find chlorastrolite, agates, beach glass, gold, geodes, amethysts, pudding stones, topaz, beryl, tourmaline, quartz, shark teeth, and other fossils.
More than 20 kimberlites have been discovered since 1971, and these post- Ordovician intrusions follow a general northwest trend through Iron, Dickinson, and Menominee Counties from Crystal Falls to Hermansville. Many kimberlites in Northern Michigan contain diamonds, while some appear to be barren.
Next time you head north, you can look for Michigan Puddingstones by heading straight over the bridge to the east end of the U.P., especially on Drummond Island. If you wanna look in the mitten, the northeast part between Mackinaw City and Cheboygan is excellent as well.
Amethyst is recovered from veins in granite and other rocks around Thunder Bay, Ontario, and to a lesser extent from Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.
Isle Royal Greenstone
Found in gem-quality only in Michigan, Isle Royal Greenstone is Michigan's state gemstone. These rare gemstones are green or blue and have a unique turtle shell pattern. While its primary location is within its namesake, Isle Royale National Park, it may also be found in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
There is a 25lb annual limit on the collection of rocks, minerals and fossils from state-owned land and lands held in the public trust in the state of Michigan. Collecting artifacts and antiquities of any kind (including shipwreck material and native artifacts) from state and public trust lands is illegal.
The National Lakeshore ends at 1/4 of a mile into Lake Michigan, the National Park Service does not allow the taking of any rocks. This policy is enforced by Rangers and local law enforcement along National Lakeshore beaches.