The Great Lakes shoreline is decorated with vibrant stones in every shade. In particular, Northern Michigan’s beaches are a known paradise for rock hunters. We talked with rock hound Amy Hites, the co-administrator of the Facebook community Michigan Rockhounding, for insider tips on the best beaches, weather and seasons for rock hunting.
What supplies should people bring when rock hunting?
“Personally, I carry a utility tray with a handle like you would keep your cleaning supplies in. It has a few separate compartments so I can sort the rocks. A spray bottle is a must. The rocks must be wet to see them clearly. They all look like clumps of limestone until they are wet. You would be amazed at what is in front of you and you would never know it. I put a sifter, used by metal detectors, inside of that to sift small pebbles. A pick or garden tool for pulling up large rocks sunken in the sand, and a knee pad. If I plan to stay on the beach for the entire day and if it’s hot I take my rock wagon to carry it all. Then I can have a chair, a cooler and a beach bag. Almost forgot—my pocket rock guide.”
Are certain times or weather conditions better?
“Summer is great so you don’t have to bundle up and it’s fine to get soaking wet. Winter is even better. I have dug under ice sheets for great finds. The beaches are empty. Fall is the best time of all as the winds of November bring fresh crops of rocks constantly and the ice isn’t on yet. Beaches are best right after a storm. Cloudy days are easier to see the stones. You can’t see patterns with sunglasses on either.”
Why was the Facebook community Michigan Rockhounding created?
“The site was created to share information, from where to go to trying to ID and share our findings. We discourage bulk collecting for the sake of selling. The site is very successful. It went from 15 members to hundreds. We even had a producer from National Geographic contact us looking for members that could participate in a reality series for collecting in the UP.”
What can people do with the rocks they collect?
“I make everything from paperweights to picture frames to wearable jewelry. Not to mention my photography that includes my rock subjects. My daughter makes lovely hand-poured beachscape candles. My personal favorites are my beach stone kleenex boxes.”
What do you like about rock hunting?
“It is a free activity that anyone can partake in. You can take it as far as you want to. When you hold a fossil in your hand that is millions of years old, brought to the surface for us to do something special with or even leaving it on a desk to be a conversation piece, it does something to you. It changes how you look at things. It tells a story. It’s like opening a book. You want to get to the next chapter. So you research it, but you can’t stop there.”
Northern Michigan Rock Hunting:
- Leelanau State Park
- Wilderness State Park
- Petoskey State Park
- Fisherman’s Island State Park
- Traverse City State Park
Amy’s favorite spots downstate:
- Lakeport State Park
- Fort Gratiot County Park
- Sterling State park
- Van Buren State Park
- Deerlick Creek Park
*State Land Rules by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources: It is illegal to remove from state-owned land more than the aggregate total weight of 25 pounds, per individual per year of any rock, mineral specimen (exclusive of any gold bearing material), or invertebrate fossil for individual or non-commercial hobby use.