Central Beach in Early Winter

A View of the Beach

If you don't like crowds, then visit the beach in winter! Seriously, Lake Michigan beaches are all but abandoned in the cold weather, and that's exactly the time I love to explore them. One great benefit is the lack of people, there simply aren't many, which makes exploration perfect. No need to worry about stepping on some kid's sandcastle, someone's towel, or having an umbrella or tent in the middle of your view. Better yet, the scenery is totally different than summer, the beach takes on a whole different attitude. 

The cold and wind certainly make things more interesting during the visit, but they also provide endless unique things to explore. This was relatively early in the winter, so ice is just forming, but Lake Michigan has still managed to toss up a bunch of ice boulders onto the beach. Chunks of ice float around in the water until they are tossed up on the beach. Wave after wave pushes and pulls the chunks until they finally end up high enough on land to stay put. This constant action rounds the edges of the ice, making them look a lot like boulders that have been in rivers or glaciers. These will eventually pile up 15 feet tall or more along the shore.
  Ice Boulders on the Beach

While the ice chunks are still close to the waves, the water splashes and pours over them, adding more drama to the formations. Looking closely, layer upon layer of ice and sand can be seen on them, and in some cases long icicles form where the water runs down the ice. 

This area is a bit difficult to walk on, because the crashing waves create very smooth ice on the beach. Generally, you won't slide too far because there are so many ice boulders, you'll eventually slide into one. But, walking on any ice between the boulders and the water is not advised. The shoreline is always angled toward the lake, when the sand freezes, the ice is very smooth and slick. It's possible, to walk onto this slick spot and slide all the way to the cold lake water, where it would be very difficult to walk out because the ice is so very slippery. Enjoy nature at a safe distance.

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