How to Find a Petoskey Stone (or at least call yourself a rock hound)
1. Go to northern Michigan. These special rocks, the state stone of Michigan, can also be found in some other mid-western states such as Iowa and Wisconsin, but since I am a Michigan girl and have only found them here, I say this is the place to look.
2. Choose a day not too windy, not too cold, not too wavy. It’s hard to see rocks in the water when the waves are rolling.
3. Think about using sunscreen on your shoulders and on the back of your neck, even if the day is overcast. You’ll be looking down a lot and can still get a nasty sunburn, even on a cloudy day.
4. Have bug spray on hand if there’s no wind. The horseflies may be biting. They like to land on your head. If you wear glasses, take them off before spraying around your hair; the spray will ruin your lenses.
5. Bring a bucket or similar container. It’s just too easy to ruin a perfectly good shirt using it as a rock-carrying sling, and quite unnecessary if you plan ahead this way.
6. Put on your swimsuit or shorts or – if you don’t like your legs showing too much – capris. Even pedal-pushers or bermudas would be good, although young people may not know what those are. You might like to wear flip-flops or water shoes to protect your delicate feet from pokey rocks.
7. Find a nice lake with a rocky shoreline. One of the Great Lakes is best, but inland lakes can be good, too. Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay is famous for its Petoskey stones. I also love all the colorful rocks along the Lake Superior shoreline, even further north. Please note that a sandy shoreline is swell for swimming and building castles with fancy moats, but you won’t find good rocks there.
8. Wade into the water. You’ll see that the rocks nearest the edge have been washed and rolled clean so you can see them best. The rocks further into the lake may be excellent, but you can’t tell because they are covered with green mossy slime. Besides, the slime is slippery and a falling hazard.
9. Bend over and study the rocks. Stand in one spot for a while until you can discriminate among all of the colors of gray.
10. It’s almost impossible to identify a dry Petoskey stone. The lake water works well, but the rocks can also be found in gravel pits and along roads. If you find a possible Petoskey stone in a dry location, spit on it to know for sure. Rub the spit around with your finger. Check both sides. Sometimes the Petoskey part isn’t covering the whole stone.
11. Maybe you’ll spy a cool striped rock, or one in a color you like. Feel free to pick it up for your collection, but keep looking. The more you look and pick up cool stones, the more you will feel like a real Rock Hound. It’s an old term for somebody who likes, knows about, and collects rocks.
12. You may want to keep your rocks in water or lacquer them to show off their beauty. Or you can polish them. The link at the end of this article tells all about polishing stones.
Here are some helpful photos so you will know what you’re looking for:
These are fossils. They’re super cool, but they’re not Petoskey stones.
This is a shell (also not a Petoskey stone).
This is a Petoskey stone wannabe. It’s not quite there, but you can see that it’s trying.
Can you spot a Petoskey stone here?
THIS is a Petoskey stone!
What is a Petoskey stone anyway? It is a fossil colonial coral that lived in the warm Michigan seas during the Devonian time around 350 million years ago. Do you want to know more?
Read Rocky Lottie and Lakey Lottie!