Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Earth Science Week - Tuesday

Every day of Earth Science Week has a focus.  The focus today is "No Child Left Inside".  There is a lot of research that shows that the average child today spends less time playing outside that his/her parent's generation did.  While there are many reasons for this, the point is that kids need to spend more time outside.  What better way to spend time outside and learn about earth science than to go somewhere and pick up rocks.

Interesting rocks can be found throughout Mid-Michigan.  The glaciers that covered Michigan during the Ice Age picked up rocks from further north (Canada) and dumped them across Michigan.  Any time you did a hole in Mid-Michigan you are likely to come across rocks that are not only hundreds of millions of years old, but that have also traveled hundreds of miles from where they formed.

Rather than digging holes to search for rocks, I would rather go to a place where I can look over thousands of rocks at once.  There is no better place to do this than a rocky beach.  I have two favorite beaches where I like to search for rocks.  Unfortunately neither one is very close to Mid-Michigan.

Peterson Park Beach

Peterson Park Beach is located near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula (Michigan's pinkie finger).  Unlike the sandy beaches that can be found along most of Northwest Michigan, the beach at Peterson Park is covered with rocks.  Most of the rocks range from fingernail to fist-size, but larger ones can be found in the water offshore.  The rocks are variety of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic types and represent the many types of bedrock found in the Canadian Shield and Michigan Basin.

Peterson Park Beach

The rocks extend out into the lake.

Sizes, shapes, and colors of Peterson Park Beach rocks

If you go to Peterson Park make sure that you bring a bucket to carry your treasures home.  You will want to limit how many rocks you collect - it's 114 stairs back up to the parking lot...

The stairway down to the beach.

Click here for directions to Peterson Park from Mt. Pleasant.

Peterson Park is my favorite place in the Lower Peninsula to pick up beach rocks, but my favorite place in Michigan to look for rocks is in the Upper peninsula.

Muskallonge Lake State Park Beach.

Muskallonge Lake is located about 4 1/2 hours from Mt. Pleasant, Muskallonge Lake State Park is located in Luce County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The park is situated between Muskallonge Lake and Lake Superior and includes two miles of Lake Superior Beach.  Storms and waves constantly bring a new supply of rocks to the beach.  The rocks here are concentrated along the edge of the water with sand higher up the beach.  Again, the rocks come mainly from bedrock types found in the Canadian Shield - lucky searchers find Lake Superior Agates.  There is no stairway to climb back up here so you can easily collect as many rocks as you want to carry.  On our last trip to the park we brought back about 3 gallons of rocks.
The Lake Superior Beach at Muskallonge Lake State Park

A closer view of the beach rocks

Lake Superior's waves constantly bring new rocks toward shore.

The campground at Muskallonge Lake State Park is one of my favorites in Michigan.  On one clear night we spent about an hour lying on a picnic table staring up at the innumerable stars. 

Click here for directions to Muskallonge Lake from Mt. Pleasant.

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