A Walk in the Woods

Winter Waves & the Ice Shelf

Waves have always mesmerized me. It’s possible that this fascination stems from growing up in southwestern Ohio, where seeing a large body of water was a rare treat reserved for road trips to the ocean. So when I moved to Milwaukee over a decade ago, I was (and continue to be) truly awestruck at how large and powerful waves on Lake Michigan can be! Especially in the winter months, the icy waves transform our shoreline and create ice formations that are simply incredible to behold. The frigid temperatures of February created the perfect conditions for an expansive ice shelf with ice bridges & arches, massive bunches of icicles weighing down trees, ice balls, and ice shards that are breaking off and shifting & piling into each other. I wish I could adequately describe the sound!

One of my favorite parts of winter on Lake Michigan is how the shoreline truly changes from day to day. The images in this post were taken on two consecutive days, in order to give a glimpse of what it looks like as the ice shelf was forming, with waves crashing & splashing ice chunks, and then to show a formed ice shelf with a thin layer of ice beginning to cover Lake Michigan. While the ephemeral nature of an icy shoreline is what helps create the magnificence, it is also what can create dangerous conditions. Ice is unpredictable, especially as the temperatures begin to rise! So if you come for a hike, please use extreme caution; never get too close to the edge, and consider wearing ice cleats for traction.

The shoreline changes quickly, so find a time to visit the Center soon to experience what the winter waves have formed.


Waves crashing through an ice bridge
A large winter wave
Ice shards piling and shifting into each other
An ice formation created in part with ice balls
A large ice bridge