Fossil Hunting on Beaver Island? Oh Yes! We have plenty of them. And, they are waiting to be discovered, on every shore.
FOSSILSWhat are they? Where do they come from?How do they form? How many different kinds of fossils can you find on Beaver Island? Where do you find them?That’s a secret!The fossil at right is beautifully formed from shells and actually a large stone worthy of a museum piece. At left, Cynthia Hunting’s collection of fossils gathered over many years with children and grandchildren on Beaver Island.
By Cynthia Hunting
Beaver Island’s natural beauty is a rare gem glistening in the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan. The island has captured the eye of many and the hearts of all who appreciate the serenity Beaver Island has to offer. We all have favorite things we love about Beaver Island that we hold dear to us. Beach fires shared with friends and neighbors, birding, sailing, hiking, exploring, etc., just to name a few. For me the list goes on and on.
Fossil hunting, is right up there at the top of the list of my favorite things to do. What I love about fossil hunting is that anyone can find fossils on Beaver Island. What’s good to know is you don’t have to be a professional fossil hunter to find them. Many of the fossils you see on display in museums were found by amateur fossil hunters. Knowing how to identify fossils is key to a successful hunt, which is not too difficult, when you have an idea of what a fossil might look like, in the area where you’re searching.
Beaver Island has plenty of fossils for you to find. You probably stepped on many of them with out even knowing it. Fossils are in the gravel roads you stroll down and in the rim of rocks you amble over on the island’s shores.
Many rock deposits around the island are actually glacial moraines, (found at the edge of glaciers). Some of the fossils hitched a ride and others were exposed by these massive ice giants as they carved their way across the continent. Rocks that traveled with the glaciers are what you see in the waters around Beaver Island today.
All you need to get started is a good fossil book with photos, or the internet and time on the beach to search for them. If you don’t have a fossil book available to use or access to the internet; no problem, the library is a good place to go for both. With the library resources you can identify your fossil prospects and get on with more outdoor exploring, in no time.
The photo ABOVE...The fossils in these photos are a variety of some of the types that my family and I have found around the island, during the summers we’ve spent prospecting. This will give you an idea of what to look for to help you get started on your search. Once you have a picture in mind, I am certain, you will be amazed at what you can find on your next beach walk.
The National Audubon Society ‘Field GuGuide to Fossils’ is the go to book that I use and a good source of geological and geographic information. The color photos section, has thumb tabs by shapes, that are really helpful for identifying your finds. This book is the best reference I have come across and one that I recommend for anyone that wants detailed information on your fossil specimens.
Fossiliferous rock (fossil bearing) are commonly: mudstone, sandstone and limestone of various types; some shale and Dolomite, siltstone and chalk. Familiarizing yourself with these types of rock is a good idea. It’s always helpful to know which rocks to look for when you venture out, searching the shores for ancient sea treasures.
It’s always helpful to know which rocks to look for when you venture out, searching the shores for ancient sea treasures.
Any day is a good day for fossil hunting. Fossils are plentiful all over Beaver Island and all around the Great Lakes region. After every storm, and in each wave that reaches our shores, there is always something new turning up, waiting to be discovered.
What I have found through my searches, and I hope that you will too, is a window open to a past life earth has seen, but we can only imagine. Through that window, I can see an ancient world, strange to us and forged by the elements. A life we would never know existed if not for fossilized remnants we find scattered, here and there.
Fossils offer us proof of life on an ancient earth that evolved over the eons and was home to many bizarre creatures from land and sea. With each new discovery, an amazing story is being told to me through the remnants of ancient plant and animal oddities, I have found. A story I love sharing with my family and friends.
Next time you venture out, to explore Beaver Island and the beautiful pristine waters surrounding the coast of this island paradise, give fossil hunting a try. The fossils you find could be a story of Beaver Island that is waiting for you to share.
National Audubon Society : Field Guide to North American Fossils.
Ida Thompson, Associate Research Professor, Center for Coastal and Environmental