Awesome Ice

28 January 2014

Last year, when Leelanau County’s Leda Olmsted snapped a few pictures of beach-ball-sized ice boulders washing up on the shores of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the images were recognized as one of “the most amazing earth images of 2013.”

But these spherical orbs are just one of the unique ice formations visitors may encounter on a winter walk along the Lakeshore. Check out a few more unique ice creations sometimes found at Sleeping Bear.

In case you missed it, the “ice balls” are back along the beaches of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Earlier this month, MLive announced their return by comparing the larger 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.

If you haven’t seen this phenomenon firsthand, there are plenty of videos now on YouTube (including this one by local photographer extraordinaire, Kent Scott).


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-cano’s” on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Facebook page.

Pancake Ice

In 2011, Leelanau County’s  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 Visitor’s Bureau Facebook page.

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