Beachcombing Destination: Grant Park Beach, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By Tarah Nicole Hoffmann
Since childhood, Grant Park Beach has been one of my all-time favorite spots to explore off Lake Michigan. The vast history of this area dates back to when the shoreline was a part of the Silurian Sea, covered in shallow saltwater and bursting with amazing life. Now that those life forms have turned into fossils, you can hunt off the lakeshore near Grant Park Beach. Over the years I’ve found crinoids, a couple of trilobites, some nice brachiopods, fossil soup, and more.
You can find amazing stones including basalt, quartz, granite, jasper, freshwater agates, variolite, and unikite. With a UV light you may even discover a “yooper-stone,” aka syenite-rich fluorescent sodalite stone. According to a group called “Great Lakes Fluorescent Sodalite Hunters,” the glowing, fluorescent sodalite stones have now been discovered in 17 states and counting.
My daughter taught me all about “pareidolia,” seeing faces in things. Some days it’s hard to leave, as many stones look like faces and make for a silly, fun, joyful excursion. When she was a toddler, we were walking the shore here at dusk, and she found a hag stone with a silly face. I still have it in a special spot to this day.
Beach glass, marbles, old pottery, stoppers, and some of my all-time favorite finds have been gifted by the waves off Grant Park Beach. Not only were there actual garbage dump barges out in the lake, but many old garbage dumps were built high on bluff sides that have since eroded into the water. One of my favorite finds along this shoreline was an almost-complete, turquoise-colored, penny-head stopper from an old apothecary bottle, estimated to be from the late 1800s. My hubby seems to be a marble magnet on this shoreline: one year on our anniversary he found me five just off this small stretch of lakeshore!
Whenever I’m able to bring a friend or fellow beachcomber to this shore, they often leave with a few bucket list items checked off. It’s a beautiful spot off generous Lake Michigan and is well maintained by Grant Park systems. A group called Friends of Grant Park often holds beach cleans or clean-up-the-trail walks there.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2022 issue.