How to Identify Petoskey Stones

June 6, 2022

The Petoskey stone is only found in Northern Michigan. Many visitors to the Petoskey area hope to find one on the beach to take home as a souvenir. To have a successful Petoskey stone hunt, you need to know what to look for and where to look.

What is a Petoskey stone?

Petoskey Stone Display Box 3

A Petoskey stone isn’t just a stone. It’s also a fossil. Michigan was once covered in warm seas that were home to hexagonaria percarinatum, a type of coral. The coral was made up of colonies of six-sided organisms which give the Petoskey stone its unique pattern. Eventually, the warm seawater gave way to glaciers during the ice age. The coral turned to fossils and the movement of the glaciers spread the Petoskey stones around what is Northern Michigan today.

How do you Identify a Petoskey stone?

You will know a Petoskey stone by the unique hexagon pattern that covers it. Each hexagon has a dark center outlined in white. You can only see the pattern on an unpolished Petoskey stone when it’s wet. Dry Petoskey stones will look like just another piece of limestone.

Where can you find Petoskey stones?

Petoskey stones can be found along the beaches of Northern Michigan from Traverse City to Alpena, but they’re most prevalent in Little Traverse Bay where the town of Petoskey is located. Petoskey State Park is a great location to search for the stones. Also, try some of the smaller less-trafficked beaches on Little Traverse Bay where the selection won’t’ be as picked over. You can find them along the shores of inland lakes, like Walloon Lake, as well.

How do you search for Petoskey stones?

To begin your Petoskey stone hunt, simply take a walk along a beach on Little Traverse Bay. Start looking along the water’s edge and keep an eye out for that unique hexagonal pattern. You can also try searching farther out in the deeper water. You might want a snorkel and even a wet suit if you go out farther from shore.

You may find Petoskey stones in other places besides the water. Sometimes they’re up on the beach or even on the hills and dunes along the perimeter of the beach. Since the pattern is only visible when the rock is wet or polished bring along a squirt bottle filled with water. You can wet any rocks you find to quickly check for the pattern. If you find one Petoskey stone keep looking in the same spot. They’re often found in groups. It’s not as common, but Petoskey stones have been found in freshly plowed fields and at construction sites away from the lake. 

When is the best time to look for Petoskey stones?

Spring, right after the ice on the lake melts, is the best time to look for Petoskey stones on the beach. Winter storms churn up the lake and the waves and chunks of ice leave the stones near the waterline. Another good time to search for the stones is after a summer thunderstorm stirs up the lake.

If your Petoskey stone search isn’t successful, you can still take one home from one of the many shops in Northern Michigan that sell them as souvenirs.

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