Last year, it was ice balls. This year, ice caves are the craze at the Sleeping Bear Dunes. People have been flocking to Leelanau County from miles around for a chance to behold this awesome winter spectacle.
While warmer temperatures, strong winds, and the advancement of open water have rendered them unsafe for visitors, the caves are just one of the unique ice formations visitors may encounter along the Lakeshore. Check out a few more unique ice creations sometimes found along the winter beaches at Sleeping Bear.
According to a reports, some 3,000 visitors showed up this past weekend to gawk and play on what MyNorth media called a “once in a lifetime terrain park”—miles of ice caves located on an ice sheet extending away from a beach access point near Gills Pier Road north of Leland.
On a ridge of ice some two-stories high in places, the caverns extend for miles off shore and form when wind and waves heave fresh ice and slush onto the edge of an already-formed ice sheet.
Leelanau’s legendary “ice balls” had also reportedly returned to some beaches along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last month. MLive announced their return by comparing the large icy boulders — some weighing as much as 75 pounds — to a large-scale collection of “Dipping Dots ice cream.”
Ice balls are formed when the waters of Lake Michigan are below freezing. When a small piece of ice forms in the water, the waves move it back and forth, slowly adding more water that freezes in layers until a ball is formed.
When a hole forms in the sheet of ice and waves push water up through it, the water is propelled skyward, like lava from a volcano. Falling back down in the subzero temperatures, the water freezes into a conical mound around the hole until a formation known as an “ice-cano” is born. Check out these photos of “ice-canoes on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Facebook page.
In 2011, Leelanau County Ken Scott captured the image of dozens of lily-pad shaped discs of ice swirling at the mouth of the Leland River in historic Fishtown. Again, he shot a video of the icy phenomenon, called “pancake ice,” set it to music and posted it on YouTube. Click here to watch.
Have you captured any images of unique ice formations while traveling the Lakeshore this winter? If so, take a moment to share your photos with other Lakeshore visitors at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Visitors Bureau’s Facebook page.