This Post Rocks, Literally

Petoskeys at Glen Arbor

Petoskey stones, one of the most unique, beautiful, and difficult stones to find. You’ve probably seen pictures, most definitely on my social media, or maybe you’ve even found them, if you’re that lucky. But have you ever wondered, “what the heck are those things?” Prepare to be amazed by just another simple thing that what Mother Nature has blessed us with.

I’m sure you’re thinking…really? Rocks? They’re just rocks….

Scientific History

Petoskey stones have been around for over thousands of years, just in a different form than you’d expect. In Devonian time, which was about 350 million years ago, Michigan was geographically located near the equator, covered by warm shallow water and inhabited with marine life. Specifically, ancient coral, hexagonaria percarinata, was in abundance in these waters. As we were all taught in our science classes, the Earth’s plates moved, pushed the surface above sea level into the 45th parallel, creating what dry land is now considered Michigan. About 100 million years after plate movement occurred, glaciation “scraped” the Earth’s surface and deposited these fossils along the dunes and shorelines of the Lower Peninsula, significantly in the Petoskey area. “Hexagonaria percarinata consists of tightly packed, six-sided corallites, which are the skeletons of the once-living coral polyps. The center of each polyp was the mouth and contained tentacles that reached out for food. The hexagon shape of each cell and thin lines radiating out from the dark “eye” in the center are distinguishing features unique to this fossil. (Petoskey Area Reference)” In laymans terms, the lighter portion circles (outsider part of each individual “circle”) that generally has lines going to the center of each “circle” were once the mouth that sucked in dirt, gravel, etc. and hardened over time (the darker center).

Petosegay Legend

The Petoskey stone is based around a Michigan Legend about an Ottawan Indian Chief, Chief Petosegay. (The city of Petoskey is also named after this chief as well). A French Nobleman, named Antoine Carre, often traded fur with the John Jacob Astor Fur Company. Soon after he began trading, he met and married an Ottawa Indian Princess and was adopted into the tribe as Neatooshing and became chief. After spending a winter in Chicago, Neatooshing and his tribe headed back to Michigan where they set up camp along the Kalamazoo River. That night, Neatooshing’s son was born. As the sun came up, the light beamed on the baby’s face, where they named him Petosegay, meaning “rays of the rising son” in the Ottawa language. The Chief proclaimed he would become an important person to the tribe which Petosegay later fulfilled by becoming a successful fur trader, not to mention his “beautiful” physical features. Petosegay later married the daughter of a Chief in the Ottawa tribe of the Lower Peninsula, eventually following his father’s footsteps and became a Chief as well. In 1873, a town was established on a portion of Petosegay’s land on the Bear Creek, which is now called Petoskey, the “sunbeams of promise.” This is where Petoskey stones are in abundance.

Legend Reference from State of Michigan

 State History

In June 1965, Governor George Romney signed a bill making the Petoskey Stone the official State Stone of Michigan. It is also fascinating that the only living grand child of Chief Petosegay was present at the signing of the bill! In 1969, the term hexagonaria percarinata was formed by Dr. Edwin C. Stumm based on his research of fossils.

State History from State of Michigan

Where to “Hunt:”

  • Traverse Bay area
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • Charlevoix – I made a killing at Fisherman’s State Park just before Charlevoix
  • Old Mission Peninsula on the west shoreline, that is if I haven’t picked them all 🙂
  • Glen Arbor area
  • Manistee and Pine Rivers
  • Anywhere along the shore from Frankfort area to Petoskey
Fisherman's State Park Haul

Michigan Mac’s Fisherman’s State Park Haul 2015

Petoskey “Hunting” Tips

  • Petoskey’s are not biased to shorelines; I have had successes in mud puddles on dirt roads!
  • A tip from the locals is to go out on a rainy day to dirt roads and rock piles! Score!
  • There in fact is a 25 pound limit on removal of rock or fossil from state land as published by the DNR. Read about the guy who found the 93 pound Petoskey stone? Yeah, he might be in trouble…
  • Bring a strainer – it makes it easier to “sift for gold” and toss back the rocks you don’t want
  • Wear water shoes! My Keens and Tevas have saved me. I highly recommend as they are usually on the beaches that are covered in rocks
  • When dry, Petoskey stones are almost impossible to find. Bring a water or spray bottle with you to dampen the dry rocks
  • Don’t pay to hunt for rocks….They are all over if you just be patient!
  • Also, Charlevoix stones and Petoskey stones are different! Charlevoix will have smaller “circles” than the Petoskey. They rest in the same fossil kingdom, but are different!
Left: Petoskey Stones. Right Charlevoix Stones.

Left: Petoskey Stones. Right Charlevoix Stones.

Once again, Michigan’s beauty is captivating. The Petoskey Hunting season starts when the snow melts and ends when the snow falls. Best part? You don’t have to pay for a hunting license! These things are great for jewelry and other assorted gifts once polished. Stay tuned for a DIY Petoskey jewelry post.

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