If you happen to be planning for a trip to northern Michigan (and you should—have you seen my Petoskey Area Bucket List?), then finding yourself some Petoskey stones should be one fun activity not to miss. These rocks are not only intriguing in their appearance, but they’re said to have special healing powers.
And as far as affordable activities on a trip go, you can’t get a much cheaper one than a stone hunt—it’s free in most places! Which means more money for you to see more of northern Michigan during your travels.
Petoskey Stones: Hunting for the Healing Rocks of Michigan
What is a Petoskey Stone?
Often pebble-shaped, a Petoskey Stone is both a rock and a fossil, which was formed by a rugose coral that has fossilized. This coral, which is also known as Hexagonaria percarinata, turned into a fossil rock due to glaciation. That happened when sheets of ice plucked the stones from their bedrock, simultaneously grinding off their originally rough edges. The rocks eventually landed primarily in the Northwestern part of Michigan and its lower peninsula.
When these stones are dry, you could easily mistake it for limestone. However, when the stones get wet, you can see the coral fossils the stones were formed from. You can also use lapidary techniques to polish the stones in order to get these coral fossil patterns to emerge more clearly.
As I mentioned before, it is also believed that these rocks can have a healing effect on an emotional and spiritual level. It’ll draw out negative energy from you, and in its place offers peace, harmony, and protection.
Why is it Called a Petoskey Stone?
While it can’t be said with 100 percent certainty, it is most likely for the Petoskey Stone to have received its name due to the fact it was originally found, and became a souvenir to purchase, in the area of Petoskey. To take it a step further, with its roots in an Ottawa Indian legend, the name Petoskey originated sometime in the latter part of the 18th century. According to the legend, the city of Petoskey got its name from the son of the Chief Neatooshing (who led the Ottawa Indians in the late 18th century), having been named Petosegay. This name means “rising sun,” among a few other similar translations, and Petoskey is the English adaptation of Petosegay. The city was named Petoskey because it was founded on the land belonging to Petosegay.
How & Where to Find the Stone in Michigan
Hunting for the Petoskey Stone is a fun activity for everyone (myself included!). It took some hardcore searching and lots of tips from the locals, but I was lucky enough to find at least a dozen of them! In the Petoskey area, these stones can be found almost anywhere. The Petoskey State Park is naturally a great one, and perhaps the place where you’d be most excited to start from! However, it is far from being the only spot from where these stones can be found. You can also check Zoll Street Beach in Harbor Springs and Magnus City Park Beach. I had some luck at Solanus Mission Beach, right behind the old mission.
Charlevoix is another great place to go hunt for the Petoskey stones. There are several spots at which you can find yourself a Petoskey stone, those places most notably being Mt. McSauba, Beaver Island, and Fisherman’s Island State Park,
My best advice is to ask the locals their favorite spots and to just keep your eyes open because they could be anywhere! I even found one at Walloon Lake Winery while walking through their vineyard.
Please do keep in mind that at some places it is prohibited to remove and collect the stones. I highly recommend to check ahead before choosing the site to visit if keeping one as a souvenir is what you want!
How to Hand Polish a Stone
Another important thing to keep in mind is that you absolutely should check your stone carefully before going ahead with polishing, as many of them are actually unsuitable to be polished, especially by hand. If they have multiple pits and pore spaces, it will not be fit to be polished, and you likely won’t find yourself happy with the end result of your hand polishing work. However, if the stone is all coral and solid, as well as without deep pits and pore spaces, you’ve got yourself a fine one to polish!
As these stones are typically softer than other pieces of rock, it’ll be a bit more comfortable for you to polish one by hand. In fact, due to the softness, many of these stones are easy to entirely hand polish! To get the stone smooth, use water and wet sandpaper. First, use a 220-grit wet sandpaper to polish the entire surface of the stone smooth. Then use a 600-grit wet sandpaper to thoroughly wet sand the entire surface of the stone. Those who hand polish these stones often use cerium oxide or aluminum oxide on a wet felt to complete the polishing process. Even if it’s a small stone, it can take an experienced person up to two hours to complete, so do reserve enough time to complete the process if it’s your first time!
If the hunt was enough for you, and you have no interest in polishing, you can get yourself a shiny stone from most of the shops in downtown Petoskey. Check out Grandpa Shorters for a nice selection, NorthGoods or the gift shop at the Little Traverse Historical Museum.
Whether you’re going on a hunt for Petoskey stones to gift to your loved ones, bring home as a Michigan souvenir or just for the challenge or it, you’re in for a fun afternoon.
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