Shelf Ice

Winds blowing off shore moved the flow ice away from shore, leaving only the shelf ice along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. Following the climb up Mt. Baldy, I was rewarded with this view.

Taken from 125 feet above the water, the shelf ice looks tiny, but the mounds right at the shore are over 12 feet tall.

The usual easy walk down the dune to the beach was a lot more difficult due to the frozen sand and snow.

Into the Harbor

The Michigan City, Indiana east pierhead lighthouse stands guard over frozen Lake Michigan. Winds pushed the flow ice toward shore and into the harbor of Michigan City, Indiana.

In the foreground, shelf ice is building. Currently, it is about six feet in height, but if the waters and weather cooperate, they can reach heights exceeding 20 feet. These mounds appear very attractive to visitors, almost inviting to climb upon, but hidden beneath their frozen exterior lies danger. A 15 foot thick block of shelf ice may have portions only centimeters thick. These hidden thin areas are direct passages to the freezing cold lake waters below - with no way out. Wave action instantly pushes you away from the opening in the ice, but if you're lucky enough to find the shaft from which you've fallen, it's all but impossible to climb back up the icy walls. Perhaps you manage not to gasp and inhale water the instant you hit the lake, the shock of the cold water instantly zaps the energy from your body, making self rescue all but impossible.

When visiting the shore in winter, stay safely on solid ground.

Winter View of Kintzele Ditch

A sunny afternoon hike to the top of the dune overlooking a frozen Kintzele Ditch and Lake Michigan. The climb was made more difficult by the December storm that caused extensive beach erosion along the shore. Some of the windward portions of the dunes are now 8 to 20 foot steep cliffs of sand.

Look closely along the frozen stream, and you'll see a person walking - giving you an idea of the vastness of the shoreline.

In a little over a week, Lake Michigan changed from all liquid to flow ice almost as far as the eye can see. On the beach, one can only see flow ice beyond the growing shelf ice, but up 80 feet on the dune, you can see liquid water on the horizon. The prevailing winds pushed the flow ice against the southeast shore of the lake, creating a dramatic, winter vista.

Ice Forming Along Lake Michigan

Early January brings ice to the shore of Lake Michigan. Winds drive the floating pieces of flow ice toward the shore, while waves create mounds of shelf ice that will eventually reach over 15 feet tall.

Image requested for use on the South Shore Convention and Visitor's Agency web page.

Frost on Snow

A small stream leads into the Sag Quarry, providing just enough moisture to the air to produce a layer of hoar frost on the newly fallen snow.

The frost crystals appear to stand up like shag carpet, giving the snow an interesting texture.

The Falls at Matthiessen

Started off winter break by visiting some great outdoor places: The southeastern shore of Lake Michigan and Matthiessen State Park.

The late summer and fall were quite dry, dropping the water levels of small lakes, rivers and streams, virtually eliminating the waterfalls at Matthiessen and Starved Rock. I was surprised to see Lake Falls so full and frozen. My guess is that even a few trickles of water will freeze into the huge ice castle that greeted us early that morning.

Ice Beard

The St. Joseph, Michigan outer range light is covered in a thick layer of twisted ice following a winter storm that created 20 foot waves on Lake Michigan. The splashes from those waves created interesting ice patterns on the tower. As the wind changed direction during the storm, the ice began to twist.

This image was taken from the far end of the pier, facing shore, with lake Michigan a foot behind me.

Sparkling Pier

Following a few days of high waves and freezing temperatures, the pier leading to the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouses is covered in a thick, shining layer of ice. This area of the pier is enclosed by railings, the rest of the way out to the lighthouse has no rails.

According to some local people, St. Joseph has experienced a lot of cloudy weather, so this short burst of sunshine was a welcome thing.

Backlit Ice

The sun finally appeared in St. Joseph late in the afternoon, highlighting the ice on the outer lighthouse. The waves were up to 5 or 6 feet tall at times, so a lot of the ice from last week was knocked off of the catwalk and pier.

Beneath the Ice

The waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park are beginning to freeze. This was taken in Tonty Canyon. There are two or three potential falls in this out of the way canyon, and in a few weeks the ice will touch the ground creating a 40 foot tall column of ice.

A few miles away at Matthiessen State park, the waterfalls are fully frozen from top to bottom. One of the smaller falls that is usually harder to access is totally frozen, and allows passage behind to view the ice from inside the small cave.

Out From Behind the Frozen Falls

Ice Drapery

Ice formed on the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse and catwalk during a winter storm that churned up Lake Michigan and created 20 foot waves.

The ice apparently broke the "hand rail" cables on the catwalk, and they are now drooping down with tons of ice.

I set up the camera for a quick self portrait while I was out on the pier.
Me at the St. Joseph Light
The ice was several inches thick along the length of the pier; the most difficult part was walking around the inner lighthouse to get to the out lighthouse. The path is only about 20 inches wide with the lighthouse on the left and the freezing cold lake on the right.

The Icy Path to the Outer Light

It was certainly worth the trek out, but foremost in my mind was safety- it's only one quick slip into Lake Michigan, and in this weather, a person would only last about 10 minutes in the water.

Aftermath of the Winter Storm

Aftermath of the Winter Storm

The 30 foot tall outer light of the St. Joseph, Michigan after a severe winter storm. Waves on Lake Michigan were said to be over 20 feet high, which pounded the lighthouse and covered it in ice feet thick in places. Workers were just finishing up a paint job when the storm hit. The scaffold was demolished and is also covered in a thick layer of ice.

The walk to the lighthouse was treacherous- the pier is also covered in a layer of ice. Most of the way was slow going, but the walk next to the inner light was the most difficult. There is only a path about 20 inches wide with the lighthouse to your left, and the frigid lake to your right. I managed to carefully negotiate the path and make it out to the outer light. In hindsight, I'm lucky I didn't go for an unexpected winter swim.

Coca Cola Christmas Truck

This iconic Coca Cola Christmas truck was parked in the local grocery store parking lot. It certainly was eye catching as I drove past. I believe there are several of these trucks and they tour the country during the Christmas season.


A twisted and wind-shaped tree growing out of the cracks in a rock butte high above the banks of the Kankakee River near Bourbonaise, Illinois.

This is a composite of four individual images stitched together vertically to capture the entire height of the tree.

A View Downstream

A view downstream from a lookout point atop a rock butte on the bank of the Kankakee River near Bourbonaise, Illinois.

A winter storm was bearing down on Northern Illinois, and at this time, it was very windy and raining. Rain continued for hours then turned to snow in the evening.

Washington Park Festival of Lights

Each year, the Washington Park Festival of Lights illuminates Michigan City, Indiana's lakefront park and surrounding area, with Christmas characters, dinosaurs, and other fun figures.

Over 5 million individual lights and hundreds of wire frame figures light up the park all night long, in the Midwest's largest FREE, drive through light display.

Here, flowers dance and greet visitors passing by the historic Old Michigan City Lighthouse.

There's even a wire frame version of the East Pierhead light, which is just a few thousand feet away in Lake Michigan.
Lighthouse Light

Take Aim

The boys at the Dewey Cannon in Three Oaks, Michigan. This cannon was captured by Admiral Dewey during the Spanish American war. Three Oaks raised $1,400 for the memorial to the men of the battleship Maine, and the cannon was presented to the town by President William McKinley in 1899.

Winter Berries

Some brave leftovers hanging on to the branches in the Mt. Baldy woods.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

First Snowman of the Year

Chris, Mike and Dan pose by their first snowman of the season. About 5 inches of snow fell during the first measurable snowfall of the season.

Running Through the Blowout

The boys love running along the dunes whenever we visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. They get quite a workout doing it, and they often come across interesting insects, land features and even treasures.

The views of Lake Michigan and of the woods behind are excellent from such a high vantage point.