The wonder of winter is found in bright white snow reflecting sparkles of sunshine back up at us. In order to have shimmering snow we need cold and sunshine. One might even say that cold is the main ingredient of snow, or at least a necessary condition. Without the freezing cold we wouldn’t have another favorite winter obsession, ice!
Ice requires us to slow down and take it easy. It invites us to gaze at the ground in suspended animation while life awaits the promise of coming spring. At Schlitz Audubon, we have so many varieties of ice materializations, you can easily become immersed in admiring them. Here are some descriptions of our favorites so that you too can go out to find them, or discover new variations on the beauty of ice formations at the Center.
Amazing Ice Sheets
Near the wetland closest to the Pavilion, paper-thin ice sheets develop above and around the remains of emergent aquatic vegetation. These intricate and delicate features form when conditions fluctuate between above freezing, below freezing, and way below freezing. The melting, thawing, and refreezing create an assortment of these ice sheets to admire.
The ice-covered Mystery Lake is a good place to look for the incessant activity of muskrats. There are often messy triangular cattail huts peeking out of the ponds. You might also see the underwater paths they keep open with their life-demanding busyness. Another winter phenomenon found at Mystery Lake is the formation of ice bubbles, which are spheres consisting of small and medium-sized bubbles caught and suspended in ice. They can get quite large, or can be so small they look like a thin, hazy layer spread like little points throughout the frozen water.
The Beauty of Ice Formations at Lake Michigan
The most exciting ice escapade is venturing down to Great Lake Michigan after sub-zero weather. The temperature must be far below freezing, into the negatives, in order to see the lunar-like landscape left behind by waves freezing while splashing and retreating. Our shoreline is taken over by ice structures in the shape of volcanoes, complete with a hollow core that erupts with crashing waves out of the top. The colder it gets, the better the features become. Take care on your hike down to the lake and make sure you have someone go with you. Always explore ice with the greatest degree of caution, respect, and safety.
Like most of nature, ice formations are ephemeral. You may consider taking photographs to capture and save their beauty. When doing so, be careful not to damage these formations so that others may enjoy them.
For mammals like us, winter isn’t a time to migrate and hibernate. It’s a time to activate! So bundle up and come visit the Center on the coldest days of the year. You’ll experience sights unavailable anywhere else and barely believable.