First Freeze at Starved Rock State Park

Visiting the Frozen Falls
The days before Christmas were quite cold in Northern Illinois, cold enough to freeze the waterfalls of Starved Rock State Park.  Each year, the waterfalls in most of the canyons of the park freeze when the air temperature drops low enough.  A deep freeze right after a warm period, or after a rainfall, creates the largest frozen falls because of the amount of water falling into the canyons.

Falls of LaSalle Canyon

The frozen falls are approximately 20 feet tall, and presents itself to visitors after a long hike into the canyon.

First Freeze, LaSalle Canyon

LaSalle Canyon offers visitors the possibility of walking behind the waterfall, in a sort of ice cave. The rock of the canyon wall is undercut, creating an overhand of rock. When the waterfall cascades over this overhang, it creates an ice wall.  Walking behind the falls is breathtaking - the ice is illuminated by the sunlight, and it also takes on the colors of the rock, sky, and anything else in proximity.

Behind the Frozen Falls

Ice at South Haven

South Haven Iced

Part of my annual "First day of Christmas Vacation" trip to Lake Michigan includes a stop at South Haven, Michigan.  Generally with hopes of seeing ice on the vivid red lighthouse, but also to visit the small downtown shops for last minute Christmas gifts.

Winter Walk on the Pier

No matter the weather, the pier at South Haven always attracts visitors, and this day was no exception.  When I arrived, there were several people wandering around the nearest parking lot and the beach. They jumped out of their cars to snap a picture, then hopped back in and drove away.  I decided to wander out to the lighthouse (wearing ice cleats) to view the windward side where most of the ice builds up.  The deep red lighthouse was covered in white ice, making the lighthouse look like the outer light at St. Joseph instead of South Haven.

White Ice

The shelf ice was beginning to build along the beach, and in spots, there were some rather large chunks of ice that took on the look of icebergs. The shore took on the look of the arctic as the sun began to get lower in the sky.


The Ice at St. Joseph, Michigan Begins

Surrounded by Ice

A December cold snap has produced this season's first substantial icing of the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouses. While not as dramatic as some other years, the icing is always interesting and different.

Iced Outer Lighthouse

The outer lighthouse generally gets the most ice, as it's located on the end of the breakwater, and receives waves and splashes from three sides depending upon how the wind blows. There is also less chance for the waves to break and reduce size before hitting the breakwater. Splashes from the waves reach a height of 70 feet at times, and this spray is what creates the ice on the lighthouses and other surfaces.

Iced Pier and Catwalk

At the point where the breakwater increases in size toward the shore, ice builds up as well.  The crashing waves splash up on the catwalk, freezing into giant icicles.

Beginning of Ice Season

The windward beach hasn't yet received as much shelf ice as the other side of the pier.  It can be seen in the foreground just beginning. A contributing factor is the drift ice, and this area hasn't caught any yet.

St.Joseph, Michigan Lights in Winter