Fossil Quarry Day Trip

A full day of adventure with virgin pines, a quarry full of fossils, sinkholes and an abandoned village can be found at the Rockport State Park Recreation Area. Like most State Parks there is a picnic area, a fishing pier, and sanitation facilities. Aside from those amenities, most everything about this destination is different. There is a pier once used to load limestone on to Great Lakes ore ships. The old limestone quarry is vast. There are sinkholes, bat caves, virgin pines, an abandoned village and some of the most rugged trails anywhere in Michigan.

fossil quarry

Upon entering the recreation area there are a couple of options. To the right is a parking area and boat launch providing access to Lake Huron. This is also where the vault toilets are located. To the left is another parking area adjacent to the picnic area and the old pier which is now a popular fishing spot. It is from this area that the trailhead to the various sections of the park is found. There may be interpretive signs at hand, depending on the season. Another benefit of the remote character of this area is the near total lack of light after sundown. That means very dark skies and brilliant stars. From time to time the Aurora Borealis will even put in an appearance. Take what you need with you, there are no shops at the park, and you have 4,000 acres of wild Michigan to explore.

Rock hounds think they are in fossil heaven when they discover the old quarry. It covers 300 acres and is crisscrossed by trails. The quarry is only a few yards from the parking area, but once you are in just a little bit you are struck by the view. The landscape looks like a planet from some science fiction movie. The ground is rugged with wave after wave of detritus from the days when limestone was mined here. In the distance is a sinkhole area and cliffs that beckon the adventurous. Everywhere you look fossils are scattered all over the ground. The trail through the quarry is rough and rugged, really, really, rough. The ground is uneven and covered with loose rocks. Those rocks have sharp edges, so this is no place for flip flops. I wouldn’t go in without stout shoes or hiking boots. There is no shade in the quarry, so in the summer months those rocks reflect a lot of heat.

When searching for fossils it can be handy to keep a couple things in mind. First, warm rocks in the sun are a favorite hangout for snakes. Most species here are harmless but expect to find a few sunbathing on any given day. Second, if you decide to leave the trail to check out a distant boulder or two, pause to get oriented first. The landscape has few distinguishing features, so it is easy to lose sight of where the trail is anytime you leave it. After you are done checking out that boulder and look around, everything looks the same in every direction. It isn’t that you won’t be able to find your way out. It is just that, as rough as the trail is, the land off the trail is rougher and much more difficult to move through compared to being on the trail. The rock covered ground makes keeping your balance a little sketchy at times. If you never understood the phrase “hard scrabble” before, you will after just a short time in this place. The fossils and the surreal scenery make it all worth it. Visitors may to take fossils home, up to 25 pounds per person.

The fossil quarry is a fun and unique Michigan back roads day trip.


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