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Advice Needed for Collecting in Michigan - Northeast Lower Peninsula

Posted by Scott Sadlocha  
Scott Sadlocha July 31, 2012 03:52AM
As I vacation around my great state each year, I seem to come up with at least one thread looking for advice on collecting opportunities, and this year is no different. In the near future I will be vacationing in the northeast part of the Lower Peninsula, around the Tawas City area to be exact. While I have been in that area in the past, I haven't done so since I started collecting, and I really don't know if there are any opportunities to do so there. I have heard about old quarries in the Alpena and Thunder Bay area, but nothing I know of specifically.

Can anyone offer any suggestions as far as collecting goes? I am not averse to driving a bit to get somewhere, and it doesn't have to be spectacular. Just some general collecting, even looking along shorelines and the like. The potential specimens don't have to be great, I just love getting out and looking, something I have had far too little of a chance to do this year. Anything you can suggest would be appreciated.

Dana Slaughter July 31, 2012 06:05AM
Hi Scott,

Most of the collecting opportunities in that area involve fossil collecting but most of the abandoned shale and limestone quarries do offer the occasional fine mineral specimen--notably, rare ankerite, abundant calcite, uncommon chalcopyrite, dolomite and pyrite to name a few that spring to mind. The quarries around Alpena produce fabulous invertebrate fossils and some of these are associated with the minerals above. I've collected at the old Rockport quarry, the Paxton quarry and the LaFarge quarry. I think that one can still drive into the Rockport (found the above minerals minus ankerite and chalcopyrite there associated with fossils) but I believe that the Paxton has been converted into a wildife sanctuary of some kind. LaFarge operates a huge limestone quarry in the area and I found superb calcite, chalcopyrite and dolomite crystals within cavities inside fossil crinoid calyxes. They are small but choice. Some of the concretions in local quarries carry handsome chocolate brown masses of what I like to call corduroy calcite but is best known as anthraconite or stinkstone owing to the peculiar odor of bitumen that is experienced when freshly broken apart in hand. I think that work has shown that this material is not calcite but ferroan dolomite (don't have my Mineralogy of Michigan nearby). Masses to several pounds in weight were collected. You might get lucky and find a few marcasite crystals or sphalerite crystals somewhere but don't count on it.

Oh! There are some gypsum occurrences in the area as well but I haven't seen any specimens of note. The best Michigan gypsums come from the Bristol mine (post-mining) and the fabulous examples from mines in the Grand Rapids area (especially at Wyoming).

I'm sure that I'm forgetting some things and I'll repost if anything comes to mind. Of course, there is great fishing and the only waterfall in the LP is vaguely in that area. I've seen some fabulous puddingstones that have been cut and polished and were found on area beaches up there. I used to poo-poo these things but I find that as I age I come to appreciate such things more! Good luck!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/31/2012 06:15AM by Dana Slaughter.
Dean Allum July 31, 2012 05:25PM
You should email Captain Brandes about this quarry:
Scott Sadlocha August 01, 2012 02:54AM
Dana and Dean, thanks for the information, I really appreciate it. This is something to get me started in the right direction. I am going to try to get some more info together and map it all out. As long as I can get out a bit, that will be fine.
Anonymous User August 01, 2012 12:24PM
If you have time, you could also do some fossil collecting over by Petoskey, Charlevoix, etc., for Petoskey stones and other fossils. We had our best luck not along the shoreline, which has probably been picked over for man years, but at cut banks that intersect through small hummocks and hills along the roads to inland villages and farms just east of Charlevoix. There are a lot of naturally-weathered fossils in the scree slopes of those banks that are easily found.
Good luck,
Susan Robinson
Paul Brandes August 07, 2012 08:41PM
Definitely do Rockport north of Alpena!! You will not be disappointed as there are literally acres of fossils in the old pits and, as Dana stated, there are also some very nice minerals to be had. Just as an aside; the Rockport Quarry was created as that is where the rock came from that was used for the footings under the towers for the Mackinac Bridge. Paxton and LaFarge are both closed off as far as I know, and the quarry Dean referenced is an active operation just outside of Rogers City. There is an observation deck overlooking the pit, but access is not allowed. You should be able to walk just about along the Lake Huron shoreline and find a few puddingstones here and there as their source locality was just across the lake in Ontario and were brought across by glacial activity.

Susan brought up a good point about Petoskey Stone collecting. The beaches around Charlevoix and Petoskey have been picked over so heavily that they are now a waste of time for fossils. However, some of my best stones and fossils have come from the many gravel pits that dot the northern LP. Just find one that is not in operation anymore (and that is not private) and you should be able to find a few stones. Now, if you do get over between Charlevoix and Elk Rapids, there is a little town called Norwood along the shore of Lake Michigan. At one time, there used to be some very nice marcasite and dolomite crystal specimens in the Antrim Shale. I haven't been in that area in quite some time so I don't know what the current status of access is, but it is something to think about.

I would write more tonight, but I've been in Scandinavia for 3 weeks and am waiting to catch my flight at Arlanda in Stockholm, Sweden......
Good luck!!
Scott Sadlocha August 08, 2012 02:39AM
Thanks Susan and Paul for the additional info. I will definitely check out Rockport then, and see what else I can get into. I am not sure how far west I can get, but will do the best I can with the information I have now. I have been poring through my copy of Mineralogy of Michigan looking for information there as well as here on Mindat, so I should have something to do. As long as I get out and about and get to see something geologically interesting, I will be happy. And based on what I have seen and heard already, that shouldn't be too difficult.

And if it doesn't work out, I have a trip to the UP about a month later to look forward to, and I am positive my geological interests will be met there!

Thanks again!
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