Yooperlites: Michigan's Glowing Rock

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

*Download this 1 page PDF I created summarizing this blog post*

Check out the video we made about our Yooperlite journey!

*Disclaimer: I use affiliate links throughout this post which means I make a small commission if you make a purchase at no extra cost to you.


I could spend hours out looking for rocks. It's one activity where I find myself losing track of the time. And you KNOW I'm on board for anything that does that. The sound of the crashing waves, the smell of the fresh air, the occasional "whooaaa...look what I found!" That's my kind of life right there.


Scott's the one that got me into rock hunting. I guess if I think about it, growing up in South Dakota, my mom always had a collection of rocks from my great-grandparents that I loved to look through and imagine were from some far off, crazy place. But that's about it for me.

Add searching for rocks as one of my favorite things to do.

Scott on the other hand, grew up spending hours combing the beaches of Grand Marais, Michigan for agates during family trips and Petoskey Stones are a given being from Petoskey. When we met, it didn't take much convincing to get me hooked. Rock hunting is kind of like a real life puzzle, always looking for that perfect piece, except you get to be outside.


Heck, on our honeymoon we spent 2 days in Grand Marais, Minnesota and it rained almost the entire time. Never fear, we bought ourselves some ponchos and looked for agates mmmm maybe 6 hours each day. It was a blast and we still laugh thinking of the memories.

Scott and I searching for agates in the rain on our honeymoon!

So when we heard about this new rock that was discovered in the Upper Peninsula (UP), glows like bright orange lava under a UV light, and is called a Yooperlite, we were instantly in. After a quick Google search, we knew we needed to make a trip to the UP and find some Yooperlites for ourselves.


I go into more detail below but Yooperlites are not new to Michigan. They've been on our shores millions of years it's just that in 2017 it was confirmed that fluorescent sodalite was indeed in Michigan. Yooperlites are syenite rock containing fluorescent sodalite. To the naked eye, they look like an ordinary rock, and a general gray color, but under a UV light they glow a vibrant orange.


We packed up the Jeep, found 2 UV flashlights at Lowe's, and headed even further north without much of a plan. Everything we knew about Yooperlites we had read online. We found a small parking area and beach access at the Lake Superior State Forest Campground east of Grand Marais. We spent some time searching for agates next to mighty Lake Superior until the sun went down and then it was go time.


We broke out the UV flashlights and started searching as our eyes adjusted to the darkness and purple light beamed from our flashlights. We didn't know what to expect nor exactly what we were looking for, we just went on a whim trying to see what we could come up with.


Heading away from where we entered the beach we saw 3 or 4 groups of other purple flashlights behind us scanning the ground too. It seemed like we weren't the only ones to hear about the new Yooperlite craze.


We met one of those couple's Pam and Charlie who had spent the last few nights searching for Yoooperlites and had success! We felt like we were talking to experts as we asked them for the inside scoop of all things Yooperlites. They told us a few tips they had heard from others and learned for themselves. They said that some people suggest searching right next to the water because the waves are constantly moving the rocks, revealing new rocks. They also had good luck up away from the water where they assumed fewer people had searched. But mostly they said to just keep scanning and when you see a Yooperlite you'll know. If you see one with white or a pink glow, don't be fooled, when you find one you'll just know.


So, with our fellow rock hunters' advice, we continued onward and just a few minutes later they excitedly called us over. They had already found a Yooperlite! And boy oh boy it straight up looked like glowing lava. So cool! They actually let us keep it saying they had plenty from the other nights and were excited for us to have a reference to help us find our own.

It was a totally different experience searching for rocks at night. It was something special to be underneath the stars with Lake Superior right next to us.

It's a totally different experience searching for rocks at night, waves crashing right beside you, under the glow of the stars with a UV light lighting your way. Needless to say, we were pumped up!


We kept searching and finally, FINALLY WE (Scott) FOUND A YOOPERLITE!!!!! It was just like Charlie and Pam said, we knew right away. Glowing lava orange, Scott spotted it from about 6 feet away and when he pointed I saw it immediately! I honestly almost cried I was so darn excited (you can watch my reaction over on the YouTube video). It was just so cool to go out and search for this thing we saw online and to figure things out and make it a reality. Obviously I'm still pretty darn pumped about it.


That's the only Yooperlite we found for the night but we left giddy. We had such a blast out there searching. If you're a rock hound in the slightest, you definitely need to put searching for Yooperlites on your list!

Our Yooperlite!!!! Yahhooooo!!!

I think this trip was a great reminder that you don't have to make all of your adventures wild and crazy and grand. We left at 1:00 pm, stopped at 2 different places and found ourselves a UV light, drove up to the UP, searched for agates, searched for and found Yooperlites, and drove back home. It's true every darn time but the best part isn't the destination, it's the excitement, the buildup, the Janis Joplin jam session, the friendly toll guy at the Mackinac Bridge, the losing cell service as we venture further down a two-track hoping we're going the right way. Like most things in life, it's about the journey.


Also know that everyone has different opinions on rock hunting. Please, please, please be mindful. Be aware of where you are and what is around you. Respect this beautiful place we get to call home. And BE CAREFUL! Be aware of the water, prepare for the darkness, and make sure you can find your way back to your vehicle because chances are there won't be much cell service if you need help.


If finding Yooperlites sounds like something you're excited about, here are a few things to note:

WHAT ARE YOOPERLITES?

Yooperlites are syenite rock containing fluorescent sodalite. To the naked eye, you can't even tell they are anything special. They usually look like a general gray rock but under a UV light, they glow a vibrant orange. They look like straight-up lava!


Yooperlites aren't new to Michigan, it's just that they've recently been confirmed in Michigan. In 2017 Erik Rintamaki found the glowing rocks with a UV light and sent them to two Universities for testing. It was the first time sodalite rocks were confirmed in Michigan. They made their way from continental ice sheets from Canada. They have a scientific name but Rintamaki started calling them Yooperlites, as an ode to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, commonly called the UP where the people are often called Yoopers. Hence, the name Yooperlites was born!


Interestingly Rintamaki has since trademarked the name Yooperlites claiming it was strictly a business move and has monetized the Yooperlite name. Basically this means you can sell Yooperlites, but you better not call them Yooperlites. Making the Yooperlite name popular and then trademarking it has rubbed some people the wrong way. Here's an article you can read to find out more.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOOPERLITES?

I asked where the best place to find Yooperlites is on a rock hunting Facebook Group I'm a part of and someone responded "any beaches where you find agates in Michigan."


From what I've seen and read, they're mostly found between Whitefish Point and Grand Marais, Michigan and in the Keweenaw Peninsula. There are also reports of finding Yooperlites in other areas of Michigan as well as other states.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO FIND YOOPERLITES?

The only thing you "need" to find Yooperlites is a UV light. The other items listed are optional but smart to have with. The colored texts are links you can click to see what is featured. I use affiliate links which means I make a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you.


UV Light:

Most importantly, a UV light! We wanted to make a day trip out of our adventure and luckily found two flashlights at Lowe’s, but they were the last two. You can order UV flashlights on Amazon where they have an array of different options. From what I understand a filtered 365nm is going to make the Yooperlites stand out the most. Or, if you're like us and using a 395nm flashlight with a purple glow, wearing yellow glasses will help reduce the purple light. Here are a few examples:

395nm under $10: TaoTronics Black Light

395nm between $10-$25: TaoTronics TT-FL002 Black Light

365nm under $40: LIGHTFE UV flashlight (this is the one I would recommend)


Headlamp:

Having a headlamp or a different kind of regular flashlight is a good idea. I found the headlamp was easy because I didn't have to use my hands to carry it and I didn't confuse it with my UV flashlight. Like the UV flashlight, there are many options for headlamps. Obviously find one that fits your needs. Here are two to get you started.

Under $15: Elmchee Rechargeable Headlamp

Over $30: Black Diamond Spot


Rock scooper:

You can use this rock scooper to move rocks around a bit. Be mindful, everyone has different opinions on moving and disrupting rocks.


Appropriate shoes:

You can see Yooperlites in the water so if you’re willing to get wet, you’re going to want the right kind of shoes. Crocs are a popular option. I wore my velcro hiking sandals. People also wear tall rubber boots which are good especially in the spring and fall when it's colder.


Bag:

Bring a bag or something to carry your Yooperlites in. Here is a mesh bag that would be good for the sand and wet rocks.


Water/snacks:

Pack some water and a few snacks to bring with you. If you're like me, you could stay out there for hours so make sure you come prepared!


Warm clothes:

It can cool way down at night, especially by the water. I'd suggest wearing layers because you can always take them off if you get warm. I wore a sweatshirt, fall coat, and rain jacket and was warm while walking but got cold when we stopped. Here is my favorite rain jacket. I have it in fiery red and it really stands out in photos!


Glow sticks:

You can bring glow sticks or some other kind of visual marker to get you back to your vehicle. The darkness can be disorienting and chances are you won't have much cell service. You can use glow sticks to light your way and find your way back. Check them out here!

TIPS:
  • Go before it gets dark and become familiar with the beach. Make sure you have a game plan before the sun goes down.

  • Place some sort of marker or glow stick where you entered the beach to make your way back to your vehicle.

  • Go in the spring when the ice has moved the rocks and before tourists and other visitors travel up for the season.

  • Look for Yooperlites after a storm when large waves have moved the rocks, revealing new ones.

  • Move the rocks around. Again, everyone has different opinions on this so be mindful.

  • Go with a friend! Find a fellow rock hound and go searching for Yooperlites. We're big fans of rock hunting and it was a totally new and different experience for the both of us. Also, you can implement the buddy system and have someone with you in case of emergency.

  • Be aware of the water. I swear Lake Superior has a mind of its own. The dark can be disorienting and it can be easy to forget how violent the waves can get. Be smart and safe while you're out there looking for Yooperlites!

There you have it, all things Yooperlites! Scott and I were so darn excited that we found our own. We also wanted to show how easy it was to go off on an adventure halfway through the day, figure things out, and be back sleeping in our own beds. New adventures don't have to be hard or super planned out, sometimes the best memories happen on the fly!


Don't forget to click here to download the 1 page PDF summarizing this post. Enjoy!


Happy Yooperlite hunting!

Steph


Did you enjoy this blog? Here are three others you might like:

The only nature megaphone in the US is in Northern Michigan!

9 things to do if you're in Petoskey this fall.

A complete guide to the scenic Tunnel of Trees.

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