Comb Leland’s beaches for pieces of colorful lake-tumbled slag, locally and affectionately known as Leland Blue stones. Dive in to learn how they were created, the best times to rock hunt and Michigan rock laws you’ll want to know before heading out.

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Beneath Leland’s crystal-clear turquoise waters and along its sandy shorelines lie brightly colored “stones” just waiting to be picked and admired. These prized stone-like gems are actually pieces of lake-tumbled slag—human-created treasures that are a byproduct of Leland’s smelting industry in the late 1800s. Slag glass can be found all over Michigan where smelting occurred, but you have to be in Leland to find the coveted “Leland blue.”

Contrary to the name, Leland blues range in color—from blue, purple and gray to what’s called “Frankfort green”—and can have swirling patterns and pits/bubbles throughout, as well as rusty spots from the iron. Good spots to start are Van’s Beach and North Beach. It can take your eyes awhile to adjust to slag spotting, but once you find a piece or two, you’ll be hooked.

Photo by Allison Jarrell

The Best Time to Hunt for Leland Blues

Summer is the perfect time to wade out into the cold waters of Lake Michigan, but more visiting rockhounds can mean it’ll be harder to find pieces of slag. If you’re looking for a more peaceful (and potentially bountiful) experience, hit the beach early in the morning, or come back to hunt in the spring and fall, especially after a strong storm.

Photo by Allison Jarrell

Photo by Allison Jarrell

Michigan Rock Hunting Laws to Know

Per Michigan law, an individual can’t remove more than 25 pounds per year of any rock, mineral (exclusive of any gold-bearing material) or invertebrate fossil from state-owned land for personal or non-commercial hobby use. And it’s illegal under federal law to remove stones from a national lakeshore. Learn more about Michigan rock hunting laws with Michigan.gov.

 

Photo by Allison Jarrell

Photo(s) by Allison Jarrell