Beach Stones and Sand Formations: A Michigan Rock Hound's Pictorial Paradise
Brief February Snow Melt Reveal Beach Stone Clusters
Rare Stones on Lake Michigan Beach
I've been fascinated with stones ever since I was a little girl. These days, I love to collect them and spread them around my garden landscape. After moving into the region bordering Van Buren and Allegan Counties of Southwest Michigan, I became fascinated when I discovered Septarian brown stones lying on the nearby beaches of Lake Michigan. These naturally tumbled stones are extremely rare and are found only in one other location around the globe; curiously, India. The reddish brown stone is part of the bedrock in the region which once was an ancient ocean bottom. It's a type of sedimentary clay mud stone infused with iron; but not all possess the telltale veining. The white veins of the Septarian are filled with a type of calcite rock mineral composed mostly from seashells and corals. The ancient mud stones often cracked during their formation, and later, the calcite and other minerals like quartz or pyrite contained in the ground water, seeped in, gradually hardening and filling in the fissures. Common names for them include Turtle Stones or Lightening Stones for their striking veining appearance. Other common stones found among the brown stones are granite, basalt, limestone and sandstone smoothed by the wind and wave action. The deep gray colored stones of basalt provide a conspicuous contrast from the warm reddish brown tones of the mud stones!
Basalt, Sandstone and Limestone Commonly Found on Pier Cove Beach
I've collected quite a few beach pebbles through the years and have compiled them to create soothing works of art (shown above). The cobbler stones in the first photo are mostly volcanic igneous basalt rock. Other rock varieties in the above photos are primarily limestone and sandstone.
Basalt is typically colored grey to black with a fine grain. They underlie more of Earth's surface than any other rock type. In fact, most areas within Earth's ocean basins are underlain by basalt. The basalt stones with flecks in them have been induced with feldspar minerals within the lava flow.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed of calcium carbonate fossils and algae held together by dissolved minerals. It forms at the bottom of oceans and lakes. Limestone can be colored from bluish gray to almost white. The brown and yellow shades are usually caused by iron oxide impurities and the dark gray to black colors are caused by organic material.
Sandstone forms when small quartz sand grains made from broken rocks cement together due to high pressure or when calcium carbonate or quartz precipitates and acts like a glue around the grains. Sandstone may be any color due to impurities within the minerals, including tan, brown, yellow, red, grey, pink, white, and even black. Upon close observation you can see the tiny grains and feel their grittiness in your hand.
Southwest Michigan recently enjoyed a temporary relief from February winter with 50 degree temps. As a result, the snow melt replenished Pier Cove Creek with a steady stream of crystal clear water. It even caused a washout on the road paved over the culdesac which allows the flow to Lake Michigan. But the good news is, the rushing water uncovered the secret glory of the stones. They become buried under sand during summer months, so it's a much appreciated sight for this rock hound.
Snow Melt Sand Formations
With the rapid snow melt, unusual patterns in the sand created by the wind and frozen ice cover are finally revealed. Much of the sand formations hold their shape due to the freezing temperatures along the steep banks of the creek and the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Snow Mounds Pose Hidden Danger
There were many curious beach lovers coming and going this particularly warm February day in 2011. Some of them dared walk beyond the beach onto the ice covered shoreline of Lake Michigan. When standing still on the frozen shoreline, you could hear the trickling of water moving under your feet, and crackling sounds too. A few people did fall in, but luckily, the water is never very deep close to the shore. The greatest danger is at the crest of the huge ice mounds. From the vantage point at the very top of the ice hills, a person has no way of knowing whether he/she is walking on the edge of a hollowed out overhang caused by the constant waves crashing down below. It's very unstable there. Unfortunately, every year when temps rise, someone on the western shores of Lake Michigan drowns in the chilling water when the ice shelf gives way under their feet. It's just best to resist temptation and stay back from the peaks, especially soon as temperatures rise in early Spring.
- Solid Shoreline and Polar Vortexes
An in-depth photographic essay explaining the progression and formation of ice shelves on The Great Lakes!
A few days after the unusually warm February weather, I revisited Pier Cove Beach. A sprinkling of ice and snow mix began to fall with a million tink, tink, tinks against the frozen beach sand and stones! Aaaah, the sounds of nature! The barrage of new crystallized snow landed between the stones illuminating them from their usual neutral sandy colored backdrop.
Granite Found on Pier Cove Beach
Through the years, I have also gathered lots of large granite rocks and cobblers at Pier Cove beach, which are often tumbled smooth into bird egg shapes. I find them so beautiful that I have compiled the cobblers into a photographic work of art (Shown Above). They even adorn the border of my entrance way leading to the house so I can admire them often!
Granite makes up 70-80% of Earths crust. It forms from the slow crystallization of magma deep below Earth's surface. Granite is composed mainly of quartz and feldspar with minor amounts of mica and other minerals. It's various colors correlate with the percentage of each mineral component contained in a sample.
Quartz - typically milky white color.
Feldspar - typically off-white color.
Potassium Feldspar - typically salmon pink color.
Biotite (black mica mineral) - typically black or dark brown color.
Muscovite (mica mineral- typically metallic gold or yellow color.
Amphibole (mineral supergroup) - typically black or dark green color
- Stone Soup Photograph by Kathi Mirto
Several of the stone photos displayed above may be purchased as wall art, home decor, apparel, phone cases, greeting cards, and more. All products are produced on-demand and shipped worldwide from host Fine Art America