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Rock Skipping

Skipping Rocks

Skipping rocks is a favorite pastime of so many who have spent time near a lake of any size.  Challenging your friends and family to see who can skip the most and striving to beat your highest skip count. Not to mention, teaching your kids the fine art of skipping a rock. Most who grew up around, or visited water, have some memory of skipping rocks.

Making the Right Rock Selection

The key to a good skip lies in the spinning of the rock. By using a flat round rock, you are able to add a lot of spins. So, think “flat” when choosing a rock. You’ll want to find something in the range of four to six inches in diameter. The flow of water around the rock lifts it up, propelling the next hop. The more surface area, the more lift.  So flat and round is best.  However, with enough velocity, you can skip almost anything.

Best Technique

You will want to throw the rock hard, with a lot of linear and angular momentum, at a 20-degree angle.  Most people find they get the best skips when they throw under and sideways.  On the water, a rock’s spin keeps it poised on its trailing edge, rather than somersaulting. In the air, spin provides stability, like a Frisbee. With each skip, gravity pulls the rock deeper under the surface, and the water creates more drag on the rock.

Pick the Ideal Conditions

The rock spends 100 times longer in the air than it does on the water. The flow of water around the rock lifts it up, propelling the next hop. Therefore, calm water is ideal. If you encounter large waves or choppy water, the rock will have less ability to propel out of the water.

Fun fact: The world record is 88 bounces, so good luck!

Best Spots to Find Skipping Rocks:

Brighton Beach

Located on the east end of Duluth, and at the beginning of HWY 61, this beach offers some of the best skipping rocks on the North Shore. Enjoy skipping rocks into the abyss that is Lake Superior, or go to the mouth of the Lester River and skip rocks under the Lester River Bridge where the water is usually calm.

Grand Marais Harbor

Located in downtown Grand Marais, this beach features a plethora of flat, smooth red rocks that are perfect for skipping. This is a great spot for families to get together, and just get lost in time skipping rocks.

Black Beach

Located near Silver Bay, Black Beach is actually made up of taconite tailings that were dumped into the lake by the local plant many years ago. This practice is now illegal, but the resulting Black Beach has become a local icon. The tailings are joined by many flat rocks that are perfect for skipping.

Any Beach Along the North Shore

Pretty much any beach along the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota will feature numerous rocks that you can skip. Basalt and rhyolite are the most common, and you can recognize these by their bluish-black colors with very small crystals. These are the best rocks for skipping.

On the Gunflint Trail

The Gunflint Trail is home to many inland lakes and is the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. With so many lake to choose from, you will have no problems finding one ideal for rock skipping.

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