So maybe you know what a Petoskey Stone looks like, but how much do you really know about Michigan’s popular state stone that’s made into everything from paperweights to jewelry? Read on to learn some Petoskey Stone trivia.
1. Where did the name Petoskey come from?
Petoskey is the English form of the Native American Ottawa name Petosegay. Petosegay was the child of Antoine Carre, a fur trader and a descendant of French nobility who came to the Petoskey area in the 1700’s and married an Ottawa princess. Legend says that when their son was born, sun beams illuminated his face, and he was named Petosegay which translates to, “rising sun.” Petosegay eventually became a great Ottawa chief. When a city began to form on his land near Little Traverse Bay, it was named Petoskey after him.
2. What gives the Petoskey Stone it’s unique pattern?
The Petoskey Stone gets its unusual hexagon pattern from fossilized colony coral. Scientists theorize that Michigan was once located south of the equator and covered in warm, shallow sea water that supported the coral. A cataclysmic geological event caused the continents to shift and break apart, sending Michigan to its current location and changing the climate. Over time, the coral fossilized and glacial ice and waters eventually helped expose and bring the stones to the surface. The unique hexagon pattern on the Petoskey Stone in only visible when the stone is wet or polished.
3. Where can you find Petoskey Stones?
Petoskey Stones are found only in the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, between Traverse City and Alpena. The largest concentration of stones is in Little Traverse Bay, near the city of Petoskey. The stone eventually was named for the city. There are other examples of fossilized colony coral in the world, but don’t be fooled by imposters. The pattern is generally smaller and lighter. Some folks try to pass them off as Petoskey Stones, but if they didn’t come from Northern Michigan, they’re not real Petoskey Stones! (Psst, check out our Petoskey Stone hunting tips here!
4. What is the Latin name for Petoskey Stones?
The designation of Hexagonaria Percarinata is the technical name given to the stone in 1969 by University of Michigan geology professor Dr. Edwin Stumm. Hexagonaria means six-sided and percarinata refers to the species of coral.
5. When did the Petoskey Stone become the official state stone of Michigan?
In 1965, Governor George Romney (Yes, that Romney. He was the father of recent presidential candidate Mitt Romney.) made the Petoskey Stone the official state stone in 1965. Chief Petosegay’s granddaughter was present at the ceremony when the Governor signed the law, making it the state stone.
6. When is the best time of year to hunt for Petoskey Stones?
Winter waves churn Petoskey Stones up from the bottom of the lake. When the ice melts and breaks up in the spring, the stones are thrown up on the beach. You can find Petoskey Stones anytime of year, but the best time to look is spring, right after the ice disappears.
7. Where can you view the world’s largest Petoskey Stone?
The largest known Petoskey Stone is a boulder currently on display at the No. 9 Lake Michigan Overlook along Pierce Stocking Drive in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park. It’s about 3 ½ feet wide and 20 inches thick. It’s estimated that the stone weighs as much as 2000 pounds!
8. How many Petoskey Stones can you take home as souvenirs?
Visitors to the Petoskey area are welcome to hunt for their own stones along the beaches. It was rumored for years that you were allowed to collect as much as a five gallon bucket full of stones. However, it turns out there is a state law that says you can’t remove more than 25 pounds of stone or mineral from public land. The state of Michigan has jurisdiction over all state-owned land and all land under the waters of Lake Michigan, up to the edge of the water. A Copemish man found this out last year when the state took back a 93 pound Petoskey Stone he found in the waters near Northport.
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