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Hunting for Petoskey and Charlevoix Stones

Have you ever heard about the Petoskey and Charlevoix stones? If you haven’t, the Petoskey stone is Michigan’s state stone and the Charlevoix stone is its lesser-known cousin.

The Petoskey and Charlevoix stones are fossilized pre-historic coral that is roughly 350 million years during the Devonian Age. These stones are distinguishable based on their unique exoskeleton structures. Did you know that these fossils are older than dinosaurs? That's pretty old! 

Is there a difference between a Charlevoix and Petoskey stone?

Yes, there is a difference between a Charlevoix and Petoskey stone. Petoskey and Charlevoix stones are made up of hexagonaria percarinata which consists of tightly packed, six-sided corallites, which are the skeletons of the once-living coral polyps. At the center of each polyp, on a Petoskey stone, was the mouth that 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.

The Charlevoix stone has a smaller exoskeleton compared to its cousin the Petoskey stone. The Charlevoix stone is a Favosite which has a smaller coral-esq pattern and a lighter or white color set of small rays radiating from the eye forming the characteristic hexagonal shape which are lighter and they don’t always attach to the center dot. 

Petoskey and Charlevoix stones are both are different species of coral. It’s not uncommon to find both of these unique fossils while exploring area beaches.

Where can you find these stones?

While visiting the Charlevoix, it’s not unusual to see people strolling along the shorelines of Lake Michigan looking for these beautiful natural fossils. With numerous public beaches, rock hounds are guaranteed to find a treasure or two. Stop by any one of these areas to find stones:

  1. The Mt. McSauba Recreation Area
  2. Lake Michigan Beach
  3. Beaver Island
  4. Antrim Creek Nature Preserve
  5. Fisherman’s Island State Park
  6. North Point Nature Preserve

How do you actually find these stones?

The age-old question of where to find Petoskey and Charlevoix stones. First, find an area of beach on Lake Michigan that is uncrowded and  somewhat rocky. You can find these fossils in the presence of other stones, but not on sand-only beaches. Storms and wind generally churn up the lake and can provide great stone deposits, but can also clear the beach of stones.  

Second, you need to be patient. You could spend an hour walking along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and only find a few Petoskey or Charlevoix Stones. Don’t be frustrated, rock hunting requires lots of patience. With each stone you find, it becomes easier to identify these stones.

You are also likely to find other treasures on your walk along the beach. Other common finds include Leland Blues, granite, fossils, chain coral, beach glass, pudding stones (Lakes Michigan and Huron), and driftwood.  

Important Rules to Know

When rock hunting, it’s extremely important to be aware of any state or federal laws.

  1. According to the DNR, you are only allowed to remove 25 lbs of stones per year from state land. 
  2. If any Petoskey Stone weighs over 25 lbs, the DNR has the right to confiscate it.

Insider Tips

  1. Keep an eye out for the rare “Pink Pets” Petoskey Stones. The pink hue is a result of the iron that permeated the coral as it is calcified.
  2. Depending on the time of year, Petoskey and Charlevoix stones are easier to find. Spring is generally the best time of year to find these stones because winter’s ice has brought new stones to the shores of Lake Michigan.
  3. Go rock hunting in the rain or right after a storm. These stones are so much easier to find when they are still wet from the rain.
  4. If you’re rock hunting when it’s sunny, bring a squirt bottle. It will make the rock-hunting process so much faster and easier.
  5. Carry a small bucket or bag to collect your treasures.  

Explore area beaches to find Petoskey stones or set course for Charlevoix's amazing outdoor trails.

Request free travel information today. 

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