When it comes to fossils, Michigan is a hidden treasure chest. Before the Great Lakes and cars, ancient animals like the mastodon, prehistoric whales, and coral lived on land and in the water. If you could go back in time, the state would look like a new place!
Today, what’s left of them is buried underneath our feet. We’re going to show you how and where you can find fossils in Michigan. The answer is with a bit of help and some sharp eyes!
Keep an eye on the ground; you’ll never know what ancient wonders you might stumble upon.
Michigan is brimming with fossil opportunities. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just someone with a budding interest, there’s a spot for you! The state has numerous parks and areas to dig to your heart’s content.
So, grab your bags, and don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure and maybe a digging tool or two!
The Fossils Of Michigan You Can Find
There are a large number of different fossils that can be found in Michigan if you look in the right places. Everything from ancient coral to mastadons!
Let’s look at the different fossils you can find in Michigan.
Common Michigan Fossils
Michigan has several different types of fossils around the state. Here are some of the common fossils you can find:
- Ferns and Plants
Michigan State Fossil – Mastodon
Mastodons, prehistoric relatives of modern elephants, once roamed Michigan. Their fossils, including teeth, bones, and tusks, have been unearthed in various parts of the state, particularly in peat bogs and farm fields.
These discoveries give us essential information about the Ice Age environment in Michigan and the beautiful animals that lived there. Finding a mastodon fossil is a rare and exciting glimpse into the state’s ancient past.
Rare State Fossils
We’ve also listed below the valuable and rare fossils found in Michigan. Keep an eye on these while exploring:
- Ancient Fish
- Eurypterids (Sea Scorpions)
- Giant Beaver
- Mammoth Bones
The Best Places To Find Fossils In Michigan
We’ll talk about some of the best places in Michigan to look for fossils. Even though there are many options, we will focus on what we think are the best ones. You will enjoy going to these places and finding beautiful rocks and minerals.
Fayette Historic State Park and Harbor, located on the picturesque Garden Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offers natural beauty and historical significance.
The park sprawls across 711 acres and was once the site of an industrial community that produced pig iron between 1867 and 1891. You can go back in time as you explore well-preserved buildings, gaining insights into the town’s operations and daily life during the late 19th century.
The park is also an excellent place for people who love fossils. This area’s limestone cliffs and rocky shores are what’s left of old seabeds, so they are full of fossils from the sea.
Where and what to find fossils in Fayette Historic State Park and Harbor
Between the rocks, you can discover brachiopods, corals, and other sea creatures from a long time ago. The fossils found here tell us about when these lands were full of life and covered by water.
The tools every fossil hunter will need
When you're out looking for fossils having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.
We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced fossil hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.
Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.
At a minimum you should have:
1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard
2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set
3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well
4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill
5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable
6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to
7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect
The fossil-finding books that we use most
There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:
We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.
Horseshoe Harbor, near Copper Harbor, is known for its rough beauty. Full of geological wonders and fossils, it’s made up of ancient volcanic rock formations that rise majestically from the water of Lake Superior.
Some of the rocks here are some of the oldest on Earth. They show that the area has existed for over a billion years. When you look at these layered rock formations, you can imagine the shallow seas of long ago, where tiny microorganisms thrived and grew into the many kinds of life we see today.
Horseshoe Harbor is a must-see for anyone who loves nature, not just because of its fossils but also because of how peaceful and beautiful the area is.
Where and what to find fossils in Horseshoe Harbor
Here you can find stromatolites, microbial mats that have turned into fossils.
People of all ages can learn about fossils by finding them at the Lafarge Fossil Park in Michigan. This park differs from others because people can dig and even take their finds home. Families and people who want to become paleontologists like it because of this.
The park’s grounds used to be a limestone quarry, and the old limestone has pieces of seabed from 360 million years ago. As a result, the park is full of marine fossils.
These fossils give us a picture of an ancient underwater ecosystem. They show us how life used to be in what is now Michigan when it was a different time.
Lafarge Fossil Park is not only full of fossils but it was also made to teach people. There are full of insights all over the landscape that tell you about the geology and paleontology of the area.
Where and what to find fossils in Lafarge Fossil Park
You can often find coral, brachiopods, crinoids, and even the occasional trilobite here.
Petoskey State Park is a gem of a place to visit in the Wolverine State. It’s on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. The 303-acre park is famous for its beautiful scenery, sandy beaches, and dune formations, making it a popular place to relax and go outdoors.
But it’s not just the picturesque landscapes that draw visitors; it’s also the hunt for the state stone, the Petoskey stone. The Petoskey stone is a fossilized coral, Hexagonaria percarinata, that lived in the warm, shallow seas that once covered Michigan around 350 million years ago.
When polished, these stones reveal a stunning hexagonal pattern, a snapshot of the ancient coral’s structure. People visit the park to look for these treasures on the beaches, which they can take home.
Where and what to find fossils in Petoskey State Park
The shores of Petoskey State Park are among the best places to find these unique coral fossils, especially after a storm when waves can uncover and wash new specimens onto the beach.
The Rockport State Recreation Area in Michigan is close to Alpena. It covers a vast 4,237 acres and combines natural beauty and geological wonders. The fact that Rockport used to be a limestone quarry is what makes it truly unique. By accident, the area’s industry history has caused it a great place to look for fossils.
In the park, parts of an ancient seabed from the Devonian period are exposed, giving you a look at life from more than 350 million years ago.
Rockport has more to offer than just fossils. It has sinkholes, old-growth forests, and even a bat hibernaculum. But for paleontology fans, Rockport is a must-see because of how exciting it is to find fossils and how much the park cares about education.
Where and what to find fossils in Rockport State Recreation Area
The area has many fossils of corals, brachiopods, and crinoids. These ancient artifacts are a physical link to when Michigan was covered by warm, shallow water full of sea life.
Other Top Places To Find Michigan Fossils By Region
After discussing the best places to find fossils in Michigan, we can recommend more places to find other excellent fossil specimens. We’ve listed them below to make it easier for you.
|Alpena area gravel pits
|Rockport area at the Rockport Quarry
|Along the shores of Torch Lake, especialy the East Shore
|Charlevoix area gravel pits
|Bells Bay Road in Charlevoix County
|Petoskey area gravel pits
|Grand traverse city area along the lake and river shorelines
|Onaway area gravel pits
Common Questions About Fossil Hunting In Michigan
It’s important to address these common questions asked about fossils in Michigan.
Can you find megalodon teeth or shark teeth in Michigan?
Megalodon teeth and most shark teeth are not typically found in Michigan. Megalodon, the massive prehistoric shark, lived in warm oceanic environments, and its fossils are more commonly found in coastal states, particularly in the southeastern U.S., such as Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Is it illegal to collect fossils in Michigan?
You won’t get in trouble with the law if you collect fossils in Michigan if you follow the local rules or the guidelines provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Ensure you follow directions and laws specific to the area you’re visiting and stay away from any restricted areas.
Can you find dinosaur bones in Michigan?
Finding dinosaur bones in Michigan is highly unlikely. The primary reason is geological: the sedimentary rocks exposed at the surface in Michigan are either too old or too young to contain dinosaur remains.
Dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Mesozoic Era, from about 230 million to 65 million years ago. The sedimentary rocks in Michigan mostly come from the Paleozoic Era (which predates the Mesozoic) or are too recent (from the Pleistocene Epoch, which is well after the age of the dinosaurs).
Our Favorite Places To Buy Fossils In Michigan
Not everyone wants to dig and excavate for fossils beneath the ground. If you don’t want to work too hard to get your hands on these ancient treasures, you can also go to our local rock shops. Here are our wide range of selections:
- Dave’s Rocks and Gems -307 N Superior St, Albion, MI 49224
- Dig Sum Gems Inc. – 2045 Dixie Hwy, Waterford Twp, MI 48328
- Four Directions – 211 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
- Geoscape Rock Shop – 37111 W Red Arrow Hwy, Paw Paw, MI 49079
- Julia’s Treasures From The World – 28701 Utica Rd, Roseville, MI 48066
- Main Street Rocks and Crystal Shop – 300 W Main St, Durand, MI 48429
- Peacock Rocks LLC – 9796 Red Arrow Hwy, Bridgman, MI 49106
- Prospector’s Paradise – County Rd, Allouez, MI 49805
- Rockhound Rock Shop – 33 W Battle Creek St, Galesburg, MI 49053
- World of Rocks – 32 N Huron St, Ypsilanti, MI 48197