Waves of Sand

Expansive Dunes One of the most interesting areas of sand dunes along the eastern Lake Michigan lie within Silver Lake State Park near Mears, Michigan. Over 3,000 acres of rolling sand dune set between Lake Michigan and a smaller inland lake, Silver Lake. In addition to a huge expanse of bare, rolling sand dunes, there are countless interdunal ponds, grass prairies, and stands of conifer trees. Visitors can experience all these environments in a single hike. The hike, however, isn't going to be easy. The climb from the parking area is a steep walk up a loose sand dune, through a forest that is in the process of being buried by the ever-moving dunes. Once on top, the expanse of the park comes into view. Close to 1/2 mile of rolling sand separates you from the first stand of conifer trees, and they're not even half way to Lake Michigan. Taking Over the Forest Appearing more like an African desert than a Great Lakes field of dunes, Silver Lake State Park doesn't disappoint those who make the trek over the entire range of dunes to the lake. On this visit, we encountered something unusual on the dunes - patterns and waves of sand carved by the wind. While wind created patterns are nothing special here, these creations were unlike most. Following high winds, freezing temperatures, and snowfall, the sand and snow built up in thin layers, then, warmer weather began to melt some of the ice and snow. During this process, the layers of snow melted into water, wetting the sand which froze again. More winds eroded the sand that wasn't frozen, and these special formations appeared. Delicate Shapes on the Dune Some of these formations appeared like paper, thin layers of frozen sand, bent or stacked on top of one another. Others looked like turned vases, while others looked like a miniature canyon from the Western United States. I'll post many more photos of the interesting formations in the days to come.

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