Esch Road Beach and Bluffs
The sandy beaches of the Lakeshore are some of the best swimming and picnicking beaches in the U.S. Some get crowded during the busy summer season, but with 65 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, a short hike can almost always bring a visitor to their own quiet little swimming area. Lake Michigan’s water can be a bit chilly in June, but is a welcome relief during the hot parts of July and August.

The water clarity has greatly increased over the past 10 years, probably due to the incredible filtering capabilities of the zebra mussel which have invaded the Great Lakes. You will find their shells on most beaches now, and care should be taken as these can cause a nasty cut to the bare feet of swimmers. The zebra mussel has benefited the Cladaphora algae, which can now be seen growing out into the deeper water and which often piles up along the shore due to wave action. At times, this algae can be a nuisance right at the beach edge, but is not a problem out in most of the swimming areas. This small distraction is soon overcome by the sound of the waves, the building of sand castles, the great breezes for kite flying, and the warmth of the sand after a swim.

The prehistoric Petoskey stone

The Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone, is unique to the Great Lakes and can be found along the shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

A Petoskey Stone is a fossil of a colonial coral (Hexagonaria percarinata) that lived in a shallow sea during Devonian time about 350 million years ago–well before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Petoskey Stones are a wonderful find: they have an interesting shape and the intricate hexagonal patterns of the fossil colonial coral. The six-sided corallites, which are the skeletons of the once-living coral polyp, each have a dark center (or eyes) which were the mouth of the coral. The lines surrounding the eyes were once tentacles which brought food into the mouth. The stones that have been tossed by the waves can be nicely rounded with a very smooth surface. This smooth, rounded shape, the hexagonal pattern, and the attractive gray to brown color make Petoskeys stand apart from all other local rocks and a favorite of rock hounds.

But, please remember that it is illegal under federal law to remove stones from the National Lakeshore. Leave what you see for others to discover!

Last updated: January 25, 2018

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