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Beach Stones and Sand Formations of Pier Cove Beach, MI

Kathi Mirto excelled at writing and natural sciences as a classroom teacher. Today, she combines her research, knowledge, and photography!

Septarian Brown Stones and Basalt lying on Pier Cove in SW Michigan.

Septarian Brown Stones and Basalt lying on Pier Cove in SW Michigan.

Rare Stones on Lake Michigan Beach: A Rock Hound's Paradise

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 by the 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—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.

Winter Meltdown

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.

Pier Cove creek in route to Lake Michigan before culdesac wash out under Blue Star Hwy.

Pier Cove creek in route to Lake Michigan before culdesac wash out under Blue Star Hwy.

Brown Stones and more in Pier Cove Creek exposed during snow melt  by rushing water flow.

Brown Stones and more in Pier Cove Creek exposed during snow melt by rushing water flow.

Brown Stones, Basalt and more in Pier Cove Creek exposed during snow melt exposed by rushing water flow.

Brown Stones, Basalt and more in Pier Cove Creek exposed during snow melt exposed by rushing water flow.

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.

Winter Returns

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 (Bird Egss) collected from Pier Cove Beach Lake Michigan

Granite (Bird Egss) collected from Pier Cove Beach Lake Michigan

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 Earth's 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. Its 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.

Questions & Answers

Question: We were vacationing near Munising recently. I found some pieces of what I believe are amethyst. However, I also found some similarly shaped pieces (almost quartz shaped rather than needle shapes) of a dark grey stone (translucent like the amethyst) and a dark green stone (also translucent). Any thoughts on what these might be?

Answer: Translucent gray could be smoky quartz and the green, possibly agate? Hard for me to identify without actually seeing it. Best of Luck!

© 2011 Kathi Mirto


Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on December 22, 2018:

Yes, you're right about that Sue, I made the correction. Thanx for the reminder.

sue on September 23, 2018:

you state in article michigan septarians and pudding stones are the same, but they are 2 completely different stones.

Dena on September 17, 2018:

We live near Cadillac Michigan and are looking for a sparsely populated beach/area Where we are not trespassing, to look for fossils, Petoskey stones and other interesting rocks. Could you please give me some suggestions?

Much appreciated and God bless!

Hilary Coles on October 12, 2017:

I found some stones exactly like the Septarium Brown Stones on the beach at Lindisfarne, Northumberland U.K. and have been trying to find out what they are ever since as I have not seen them anywhere else

Chris on August 14, 2017:

This is not a dog friendly beach in 2017

Lori Veldheer on March 26, 2016:


I came across this on Pinterest because I love these stones. I pinned it and wanted to find out where else in the world they are found so I started reading. I cannot believe what I read! I have also collected most of mine from Pier Cove Park! Such a small world!

poetryman6969 on June 17, 2015:

You chose a great subject here. Love the beautiful photos.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 22, 2015:

Oh gosh, I really appreciate all the wonderful recent comments from mutual stone hounds like hostaguy, BAMwer, Sharing a Bit, peachpurple, Arachnea, kittydreamer, Peggy W, and Kristen!

frank nyikos from 8374 E State Rd 45 Unionville IN 47468 on February 20, 2015:

Fabulous images! Funny how the most beautiful place on earth is right outside one's front door.

I love stones too. I have interesting ones scattered all over the house. When ever I find one I pick it up. I pack them up when it is too hard to find a nook or cranny to put even one more. So, I of course have countless boxes, plastic containers and glass jars full of past stones in the crawl space waiting to be rediscovered all over again.

Thanks for the good read and eye candy

Beverly Werner from Catasauqua on February 20, 2015:

Beautiful pictures - awesome!

Shelli Godinho from Ontario, California on February 20, 2015:

Amazing and breath taking. I also love stone/rocks. I have collected so may over the years I decided to let others enjoy them as well. I created wire wrapped pendants. I also love taking pictures but my infatuation is the sky and clouds.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 20, 2015:

The beach stones colors are beautiful, an artwork naturally

Tanya Jones from Texas USA on February 20, 2015:

I have always enjoyed collecting shells and stones from the beach. It's been a while though. Interesting topic for a hub. Shared.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on February 20, 2015:

Oh my goodness! I so enjoyed the photos in this hub, Fossillady! What beauty in nature. Thank you for sharing with us. :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 20, 2015:

Like you, our garden is also adorned with many rocks found and brought back from various locations...vacation trips, and the like. I loved this hub! Your photography is absolutely beautiful and stunning. I have never seen a Septarium brown stone. Interesting that the only 2 locations in the world is where you live and in India. Clicked every up vote except funny and will share this far and wide. :)

Claudia Porter on February 20, 2015:

Just came across this beautiful hub! We love Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and have collected a lot of these stones. Such a beautiful area!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on February 19, 2015:

Great hub and lovely photos! I loved collecting precious stones from the Jersey shore when I was little---along with seashells, too. Plenty of useful information for a rock collector.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on July 08, 2013:

Hmm, would need to see it. Sounds interesting. Where did you find it?

Catherine Kirby on July 03, 2013:

i have found a dark grey rock 3 inch by 3 inch by 1 and a half inch but very smooth with what appears to be a white crystal perfect ring right round it in the middle , can anyone shed any light on what may of caused this or has anyone seen this type of rock before please

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on May 10, 2013:

Hi Rolly, Good to see you, your hunch is right, you should see my landscaping . . . rocks everywhere, lol, but not necessarily the rare septarium. There's a secluded beach with oodles of large granite stones which I've collected. I like to collect smoothed small stones too, some look like bird eggs and lots of others are soft muted colors of grays,pinks and purples. Crazy for rocks, Hugs, Kathi

Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on May 08, 2013:

Hi Fossillady... wow what a great collection of photos and your words of sharing. Loved it.

Something tells me that you probably bring as many home as you can. I started a collection years ago, even with the dates and locations where I found them.

Great read and thank you for all the hard work...

Hugs and Blessings

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on April 18, 2013:

Oh thank you Sid, you may come back anytime, I'm glad you feel calm when viewing the sand, snow and rocks! :O)

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on April 18, 2013:

Thank you! I've come back for another visit to calm my mind. Sand, snow, and rock create such beauty together.

Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on October 22, 2012:

Outstanding in every way!!! :)

Matt on July 16, 2012:

Cool. Michigan beach stones are so colorful and diverse. Some are 2 billion years old.


Darrylmdavis from Brussels, Belgium on June 05, 2012:

Great hub! Reminds me of a series I once did in South Wales in the UK.

Steven Gray from Pensacola, Florida on May 26, 2012:

Beautiful images; thanks for sharing.

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 19, 2012:

Such rich colors. Thank you. Just gazing at these is a beautiful meditation.

george on May 04, 2012:


PADDYBOY60 from Centreville Michigan on November 27, 2011:

I love these photos! I am a bit of a rock hound myself. Wherever I go on vacation I try to pick up a couple of unusual rocks. I have a few from a river in South Carolina, where I go fishing every year.

Jill Spencer from United States on October 31, 2011:

Your sand photos are particularly stunning. What wonderful shots! Vote up!

Eiddwen from Wales on July 27, 2011:

Having grown up in a small seas-ide town a lot of my childhood was spent scouring the beaches for stones,driftwood and all sorts of treasures.

I loved this one and thanks for sharing.

Take care


Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on May 18, 2011:

Hi MM, I really appreciate all you kind comments and stops through my hubs! Hope you have a great day!

Movie Master from United Kingdom on May 17, 2011:

Hi Fossillady, I too have always had a fasination with stones and pebbles! they have a special beauty all of their own! beautifully captured in your wonderful photographs, I love the sand formations, voted up and beautiful.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on May 07, 2011:

That's a great story Peter, I lived in Mishawaka for a few years back in the 80's, know the area well! Fascinating work your path has taken you! Glad it took you back!

PETER LUMETTA from KENAI, ALAKSA on May 07, 2011:

Hi Kathi, wonderful presentation of a story close to my heart. I'm an old rock licker from Michigan that became a Gemologist. I still love rocks. I used to own a small farm in Sturgis down by South Bend. your story and photos brought me back. Bravo!

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on April 19, 2011:

Hi Fennelseed, nice to meet you! Thank you for your geneous compliment! I'm glad it reminded you of your father and thank you for sharing that! Take Care

Annie Fenn from Australia on April 19, 2011:

Hi Fossillady, I have really enjoyed your images. I love close ups from nature. Stones and gemstones have always been a special interest of mine as my late Father used to collect them and polish them up in a gemstone tumbler (I think that is what Mentalist Acer was referring to).

I look forward to seeing more of your work.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on March 23, 2011:

Thank you Helen, I'm crazy for rocks, tee hee

Helen Lewis from Florida on March 22, 2011:

Great photography - you really are an artist! Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. :-) Helen

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on March 09, 2011:

Thank you tkw, Cool comment, I truly appreciate it! Smiles

toknowinfo on March 09, 2011:

Beautiful and amazing pictures. I can keep looking at them over and over and i see something different each time. Thank you for sharing these photos. Again, I am sharing this on stumbleupon. Rated up and beautiful.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 28, 2011:

Thank you for the nice compliments! I know what you mean that you sensed the stone calling, I do believe there is a spirit and energy in all of nature! Wow, I couldn't tell you I had stones from my childhood, that is very cool.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on February 28, 2011:

I LOVE stones and have been a collector of them ever since I was a young girl. I would 'sense' the stones and feel that one would be calling to me...if that makes any crazy sense at all.

I still have stones from when I was very young...

I absolutely LOVED this hub; voted it up and AWESOME

It is fantastic-rich in information AND, the photos are so beautiful, eye catching and clear. I can almost reach out and touch them.

Fantastic hub, thanks.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 26, 2011:

ImChemist, your avatar is very adorable, thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice compliment!

ImChemist on February 26, 2011:

Thanks for sharing this beautiful pictures that i rated beautiful.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 25, 2011:

Would love to go to Ghostly Grottoes someday! Thanks for stopping by and preciate the great comment!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on February 25, 2011:

WOW! Those are great photos. I love the rocks with the dikes in them--such interesting patterns!

Your driftwood photo is superb, and the erosion in the sand cliffs threw me back decades in time to our family vacation and the formation known as "The Ghostly Grottoes" at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Good job! Bounced all over the buttons!

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 25, 2011:

Fantastic, that's what its all about! thank you for stopping by!

Charlinex on February 24, 2011:

Thank you, now I have learned something new about Michigan.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 24, 2011:

Hi Katie, nice to meet you finally, I've seen you around on hubpages several times and have meant to check out your hubs but I guess you beat me to the punch! thank you for the nice compliment! Glad you like the photos. I'll see you around!

Hi Doppy,

You finally left a comment! Thank you for the wonderful compliment! You were my biggest influence! xxxooo

Doppy on February 24, 2011:

These photos are indeed beautiful, and you have captured

your subject so very well. It makes stones come to life.

Excellent work!!!!

Katie McMurray from Ohio on February 24, 2011:

What an amazing collection of perfect beauty and the beauty of winter melting away WOW what a wonder. You captured this perfectly and so magically. I will def be back to enjoy the sand smoothed stones and beach melt photo essay. Very Well Done and Brilliant! :) Katie

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 24, 2011:

You are too funny, the w's went across the full length of the page. lol! Thank you for your everlasting support sweet man. I love it when you stop by! I've come across quiet Doug a few times on Redbubble lately. I was pleased he left a nice comment! Hugs

epigramman on February 24, 2011:

...I must get my very elusive buddy Doug to come here because I know he would love this Kathi (you remember my photographer friend?) .....and this to me is pure art from the lense - and it's your lense - and what a lense it is - you really do take the art of photography to another level and I am so very glad to have found you - is the National Geographic calling you for some freelance work? You're that good!!!!!!!!

epigramman on February 24, 2011:

....okay with due respect to Docmo you shall only get one 'wow' from me lol - but what a 'wow' - are you ready? - wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

.......well sometimes it's about the quality of the 'wow' not the quantity!!

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 24, 2011:

thanks for stopping by, very nice compliment! i'm encouraged to keep on shooting, even with my inferior camera. saving for a decent one!

thewayeyeseeit from Woodstock, GA on February 23, 2011:

Great pictures. The textures and colors are terrific. You have a good eye for "composition in abstract."

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 23, 2011:

sue, mike, thank you both for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the photos

Mike Outdoors from Somewhere in Canada on February 23, 2011:

Very nice photographs!

suegillespie on February 23, 2011:

how awesome....I too like stones! Cool Hub.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 22, 2011:

well that says a lot coming from a talented photographer such as yourself! thank you manny

mannyrolando on February 22, 2011:

I really tried but could not pick a favorite photograph among the many... I loved them all. What a wonderful hub, informative and the photographs, simply magnificent! I truly love how you SEE nature and I love the fact that you stop to photograph it and share it!

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 22, 2011:

B.,Winsome,A.A.,Ruby, thank you for all your awesome comments! You inspire me to continue to get behind the camera and return the favor!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 22, 2011:

Your pictures are so beautiful ! I would love to have some of the rocks for my flower garden. I bought white rocks last year, but they are small and expensive. I am so ready for spring. Thank you for showing your pictures. Take Care.


Augustine A Zavala from Texas on February 22, 2011:

Images are absolutely stunning. Most people don't realize how beautiful Michigan is, I know I didn't. But then again, I worked in the industrial side of southern Detroit. Thank you for sharing the beautiful imagery.

Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on February 22, 2011:

Kathi what a show you put on for us. You have inspired me to take my camera to the beach. We have some great ones near here--Laguna Beach is very picturesque and has some awesome formations and rocks.

Thank you for the visual treat and Septarium review. =:)

b. Malin on February 22, 2011:

What a wonderful Hub on Beach Stones and Sand Formations, so rich and informative, along with pictures that are so beautiful...What a wonderful treat for all to see in February...This is a Present, Nature at its finest, captured as only you can Fossillady.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 22, 2011:

Pras, thank you, thank you, thank you,I am sooo happy that you enjoyed the photos. We are blessed with the beauty of nature all around! You have the heart and soul to recognize it! Hugs and smiles!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 22, 2011: May I continue my "wow". I don't have any word to express my feeling after saw all stunning pictures. I never doubt that you are great photographer. Beautiful and so relaxing. I love water and all the things related with something natural. I can find through this hub. Well done, my friend. I give my vote special for you. Take care!


Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 21, 2011:

Thank you sweet lady! Nice to see you! Glad you felt revived and thank you for the nice compliment! Hope you're keeping warm on this chilly winter evening!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 21, 2011:

A magnificent hub! Loooooooooooove these pictures so much. Beauty is everywhere (including the writer). All of nature attracts me and energizes my senses. Stones and rocks - sand formations, make me feel so alive. Thank you for "reviving" me.

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 21, 2011:

Thanks Laine, preciate the comment

Docmo, that is way cool, never been out of the country let alone India. Would love to travel some day! Thank you for the super duper compliments! I'm so glad you found beauty in the photos!

Mohan Kumar from UK on February 21, 2011:

Wow!wow!wow! ( one wow won't do for this hub) Fossillady, you have the eye of an artist, the heart of a poet and the brain of a Geologist... I absolutely adored this hub, gonna bookmark it and keep coming back. There is so much beauty in here, it's amazing. In a strange coincidence I have a feeling I have seen septarium stones in the river beds in India as that pic looks so familiar and tranquil. voted way, way up.

Laine on February 21, 2011:

Wow! LOVED this! You have a gift!!

Kathi Mirto (author) from Fennville on February 21, 2011:

Vicki, Inmate,Kay & Acer, I do so appreciate your positive feedback. Acer, I remember those polishing tumblers too. Pretty sure they are still available for sale!

Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on February 21, 2011:

I remember a popular hobby type stone polisher you could buy and make beautiful polished stones that were,to me,as nice as precious gems,my neieghbor had one.;)

Kay Creates from Ohio on February 21, 2011:

I love looking for interesting rocks and formations when I'm out hiking. I enjoyed your photos.

inmate702 on February 21, 2011:

Nice imagery!

Vicki Russell on February 21, 2011:

Way cool, are so talented! I love stones too.