If you're hunting for Petoskey stones, now's the time. But there's a catch

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The Great Lakes water levels may have swallowed your beach, but an embarrassment of riches have revealed themselves.

An abundance of Petoskey stones, the iconic Michigan rock, have made emerged from their geologic hiding spots, and just in time for Labor Day. 

Kevin Gauthier, the owner of Korner Gem in Traverse City, which sells everything stone and rock in jewelry form, said the burst of Petoskey stones is due to the high lake levels.

"They are more exposed because of the erosion," he said. "It's exciting to see these things coming out of the stone. It's really different stuff that hasn't been seen. It's been buried for decades."

But rock hunters beware, if you want to find one you'll have to wade into the water. Those same lake levels might have submerged your favorite beach spots to search for stones.

"Normally, there's 25 feet of shoreline of rocks typically in most years," Gauthier said. "This year, there's very little shoreline that's all chopped off."

Petoskey stones sport a similar aesthetic to that of a turtle shell. The only place in the world you'll find them are in Lake Michigan, with the vast majority concentrated near the northern tip of Michigan's lower peninsula.

Gauthier is somewhat of a celebrity in the rock-hunting world and speaks with authority, having literally written the book on the craft. It's titled the Lake Michigan Rock Picker's Guide. He said despite the extremity of the summer's lake levels, the rock storeowner isn't so surprised by the surge in sought-after stones. This ebb and flow of lake levels is cyclical.

"That's why it is exciting and it's being exposed," Gauthier said. "It will get buried again, the winds will come and the lake level will go down. But right now, there is a lot of new material."

Shifting wind direction and tidal strength often determine the luck that a rock hunter will have in their quest for the best.

For Chris Cooper, an administrator of the Facebook group Great Lakes Rocks and Minerals, which is a collection of more than 50,000 avid rock hunters, the burst is an anticipated one.

"It is exciting. You hear of a storm that comes with big waves, that means the lake is getting stirred up," he said. "You're hoping your favorite rock-collecting beach - that rocks are still there."

But Cooper warns that rock hunting in general hasn't been easy this summer, due to the lake levels. 

"Especially down south it has (been difficult). One thing, some of the parks have been closed due to storms we've had because some of the access to the beach isn't readily available," he said.

Gauthier often remarks that the Great Lakes are the greatest place for rock hunting in the world. The diversity of colors and types found in the basin were leftover when the glacier that blanketed the region receded. While beaches are common places to find your favorite stones, they are deposited all around the region.