Northern Michigan In Focus: Lake Superior Agates

What’s more peaceful than walking down the beach and looking for that perfect rock?

For one woman in the Upper Peninsula’s village of Grand Marais, those rocks have a very special meaning, especially one certain kind. Corey Adkins explains in this weeks Northern Michigan In Focus.

“The Gitche Gumee Museum was founded by a gentleman named Axel Niemi back in the early fifties. He ran it through the early 1980s and he definitely made me the rock-hound that I am today,” said Karen Brzys.

Karen Brzys has a love for Lake Superior rocks.

“When you’re on the beach. first of all you’re getting exercise, you’re out in nature and you’re enjoying the wonderful array of rocks that we have on this beach,” said Brzys.

But the people on the beach in Grand Marais are on a mission. They’re exploring, seeking and searching for the Lake Superior agate. You wouldn’t believe how old they are.

The Lake Superior agate is approximately 1.2 billion years old and it’s the oldest agate in the Western Hemisphere.

Karen says about 1 in every 20,000-30,000 rocks along the beach are actually agates. Shadow agates aren’t from Lake Superior but you can find them here.

A shadow agate forms when every other band is translucent and opaque and translucent and opaque. And when you move the rock back and forth, it creates a shadow.

She has about 7,000 people a year come through the Gitche Gumee: Agate and History Museum in Grand Marais. Karen can even tell you why these things are here and why this area is one of the best on the planet.

“There’s 3,000 places on Earth where you can find agate, but Lake Superior is one of the highest qualities, certainly in the top five, unfortunately also one of the rarest but it’s a treasure hunt,” explained Brzys.

She’s even written two books on coaching, guiding and cultivating people into this healthy addiction.

“I’ve developed a brand new method and i’m up to about 2,000 testimonials now of people that find their first agate using that new method and it brings me great joy,” said Brzys.

But that’s not why she really does this. It goes a lot deeper than that.

“I was actually blind till I was 10 from too much oxygen in the incubator. And starting when I was eight I could kind of see blobs, not really vision but a little bit and I used to come hang here with Axel, he never had children so he kind of adopted me. And starting at 10 I could see a bit better one day he said ‘Karen come and meet me in front of the museum at 11:30,’” explained Brzys.

That night she ran down to Axel’s place. He had a homemade telescope set up.

“He said stand on the stool look in the eyepiece and don’t touch the telescope and as I carefully look through that eye piece I saw the rings of Saturn and Axel said to me ‘Karen, given your eyesight problems, if you can see the rings of Saturn you can do anything’ and that was the first day of my life and I believe that to be really true,” said Brzys.

July 4, 1999 she reopened the museum in Axel’s memory and because of his friendship with Karen there’s a lot of happy people walking around the beaches of Lake Superior.

“If you can go out on the beach and find yourself an agate it just brings happiness to your life, and I’ve been watching people do that for a long time,” said Brzys.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus