“Look at that… found one already!” one of our group shouted. Their UV flashlight had just picked up the tell-tale sign of orange color shining up from Lake Superior beach stones. It was one of the stones we were seeking that chilly August 2021 night in an “undisclosed location.” OK, it was on a beach… next to Lake Superior… in the U.P. That’s all you need to know because, much like morel mushrooms, Yooperlites are where you find them.
We were lucky enough to be traipsing along with none other than the man himself: Erik Rintamaki… the life-long rock hound from Brimley, Michigan. He discovered and named the now famous Yooperlite after making an initial discovery, by accident (like many discoveries), in 2017. By 2018 word was getting out (much through his YouTube video, which got millions of hits worldwide) that a “new” find had been made in Michigan. Every rock hound (or, for that matter, anyone looking to name something) dreams of this and he did it. He discovered the rock with the use of a longwave ultraviolet (UV) light while rock hounding on the beach. Eric was actually looking for a good way to locate agates, his first passion.
The first verified Syenite-rich fluorescent Sodalite in Michigan was what he had discovered. Therefore, Erik had to select a name. He came up with the best one he could think of that was unique and representative of his discovery, and Yooperlites were born. After lengthy discussions, he mentioned that he thought about many names but wanted to pay homage to where they were found. What a great name! Way to go, Erik. He said, “Rintamakite just didn’t have that ring to it!”
So, what is a Yooperlite?
As described above, the science end anyway, technically, indicates what they are. And if you haven’t seen one, you may want to check ’em out online… the photos included here illustrate what they look like, but there are many good photos online, of course. I recommend Erik’s site: yooperlites.com, for all the lowdown, excellent recommendations, hints, equipment for sale (he has the best UV lights), and stories about Yooperlites. Where else would you go? The source is the best!
As indicated, Yooperlites have a very distinct orange color that is on fire when exposed to UV light. That’s why you spend all your time looking for Yooperlites at night. Looking at a stone in daylight will look pretty much, well, like a stone! If you can spot one in daylight, you may want to see a doctor. The orange color you will see under the UV light will be very easy to differentiate from the blues, reds and other colors you may see. Don’t be surprised if you spot something “glowing” that moves… like a frog or spider! After all, UV lights are used to spot scorpions in the west!
What’s also great about Erik is he’s willing to share all information to help rookies locate the stones. He’s been in numerous publications, podcasts, and has given lectures and presentations worldwide. Running his business takes up most of his time, and he still personally leads tours in which you can participate. Very reasonable rates for the tour include dinner at Pine Stump Junction and a great UV light to keep (Convoy C8). Take the family! It’s a great time and what a unique experience. I won’t give away all his secrets, but he has some pretty cool stories that he tells… that may or may not have anything to do with Yooperlites. You’ll just have to go to find out!
If you want to go on your own, it’s easy to do. Check out all the information you can find on Erik’s site (or others), and head to the U.P. (actually, you can find them all over the five great lakes… even in rock gardens), but the U.P. is the place to be. Hey, that rhymes!
All you need is a good reliable UV light with extra batteries (see website for recommended types… cheap ones aren’t that great), headlamp/flashlight (white LED light), glowsticks, a small backpack or other for carrying snacks, bug spray, water, etc. Then, have a plan! Safety is critical, as always. Share your plan, where you are going and when you’ll be back. I recommend not going alone. My wife tells me that on every hunting or fishing trip I go on. And this is no different… I’m hunting Yooperlites!
I would also recommend you don’t rely on your cell phone. It may not work in areas of the U.P. And you may wonder why you bring cyalume or glow sticks. Think about it. You get all excited; you find a remote spot along the Lake Superior coast, and you rush down to the beach from a perched dune when it’s still light and then darkness. “Where did I come down from my parking spot? I know it’s along here somewhere.” Well, good luck with that. See ya next summer.
One more item I would add to your list: a pair of UV protective glasses/driving glasses (yellow tint). My wife and I have issues with “black light” (UV light) while rock hunting. Many people do. It can cause real eye fatigue and “fuzzy vision” while searching (obviously, don’t shine the light in your eyes). I noticed it right away, and after using my yellow-tinted glasses, wow. Awesome. I can see the Yooperlites better as well. Also, hold the UV light way out in front of you. Don’t point it down at your feet. Erik’s site has excellent videos demonstrating how to do it. He’s the one who knows, so follow his instructions!
There you go, now get out there and chase down a couple of Yooperlites. After your first find, you’ll be hooked. Make some truly unique Michigan memories!