Rock Collecting in the
The Upper Peninsula is a spectacular place for rockhounds. Take one of these tours of the U.P. for a great collection of rocks and minerals. Don't forget to collect some copper.
Scattered along the beaches of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and hiding like secrets in rock piles and among boulders are more than 150 collectible rocks and minerals which draw rockhounds from across the nation. Sometimes as many as 20 kinds can be identified in a given area. The Keweenaw Peninsula is the heart of the best rock collecting ground in the North Central States.
Their listings sound like a rock museum: the rainbow colors of Lake Superior agates all along the shore, with banded agates in the Eastern U.P., jasper, pearly-pink thompsonite, quartz, native copper and datolite found in discarded rock piles from abandoned mines near Rockland and Mass, manganite from L'Anse, and bubbly black psilomelane from the Ironwood area. Greenstones, or chlorastrolite, are usually light to dark green or blue green in a turtleback pattern. They are found in the Keweenaw Peninsula and along the shores of Isle Royale. The country's largest outcropping of jasper can be found in Ishpeming; specular hematite, quartz, tourmaline and other minerals can be found near Champion and elsewhere.
The rocks west of Marquette are the ancient granites, the iron formations and the copper-bearing rocks. (Archean, Huronian, Keweenawan) They are referred to collectively as Precambrian.
Nearly two billion years ago, this area west of Marquette was very likely as high as the Alps. The rocks you see along the lakeshore are part of the eroded roots of a mountain system similar to alpine-type mountains. Geologists speculate that this region may even have been as high as the present-day Himalaya Mountains, the tallest peaks in the world.
A good time to rockhound along the beaches is between spring storms after the ice goes out or after any activity that pushes rocks around. Rocks and minerals are found along beaches, in gravel pits, on leftover mine ore dumps and other places the land surface has been disturbed. Limestone and sandstone quarries harbor crystals and fossils. Do not enter without permission!
Since rockhounding normally takes place on private property, permission is essential. Some areas such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, national forests and other areas, enforce specific collecting rules, such as permission to gather specimens only below existing water lines.
Rockhounds should not miss the Seaman Mineral Museum at the Michigan Technological University in Houghton. The museum, located on the fifth floor of the Electrical Energy Resources Center, is world-class. (Open Mon-Fri, 9am to 4:30 pm, Sat from 12 noon to 4pm July to October. Longer hours during the winter. Phone 906-487-2572; fax 906-487-2949). The museum has the world's finest display of minerals from the Lake Superior Copper District.
Rock shops are scattered through out the U.P. Along with gifts, they often have area maps and offer information. Also watch for announcements on rock swaps which always feature interesting specimens.
With a few exceptions, the spectacular mineral deposits for which Michigan is justly famous occur in rocks of Precambrian age found in the western Upper Peninsula. The Precambrian Age involves 85 to 90% of all geologic time. The Precambrian age begins at some yet undetermined time between 4500 and 3800 million years ago and extends to 600 million years ago.
The Paleozoic Era in Michigan is represented by rocks that underlie the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula. Beginning about 600 million years ago and ending about 310 million years later, this era is represented by a wide variety of strictly sedimentary rocks that were deposited in the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, and Pennsylvanian Periods.
Iron Mountain Iron Mine and Rock Shop. Wide variety of interesting rocks and minerals. Jewelry, books about mining, and many other interesting items. Open dailylate May through mid-Octo ber. Located at the Iron Mountain iron Mine 9 miles east of Iron Mountain at W4852 Hwy US 2, Vulcan, MI. Watch for Big John, a 40’ miner welcoming you. Take Hwy 141 to US-2, East on US 2 to Vulcan. (Worth the trip to tour this old iron mine). Phone: (906) 563-8077
Red Barn Antiques, Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, & Specimens, PO Box 99, N7017 AuTrain Lake Road, AuTrain, MI 49806. (906) 892-8455. Depression Glass, China, Books, Magazines, Items from the 40's, 50's and 60's, Lamps, Pottery, Pictures, Munising Ware and much more.
Red Metal Minerals, located at Gitche Gumee Landing, carries a large variety of copper, datolite, and local specimens, as well as minerals from around the world. Included are many unusual gift items such as agate slabs and bookends of all sorts. Spectacular mineral specimens for the serious collector and anyone who enjoys the beauty of Mother Nature. Variety of books written on the history and geology of copper mining in the Keweenaw Peninsula. 202 Ontonagon Street, Ontonagon, MI 49553. Phone 906-884-6618.
Rock Collecting Tour of the Western Upper Peninsula - the Copper Country
Guide book for the Copper Mine Locations and Rockpiles
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Peninsula Recreation page