Structure Revealed

Structure Revealed The rising winter sun reveals the structure of the Hennepin Canal's lock 11, the steel bridge, and even the trees. Following record cold weather, a few days of warm temperatures began to melt some of the snow, causing some minor flooding of fields, creeks, and parks. The towpath of the Hennepin Canal turned to ice after temperatures dropped once again, making it a bit hazardous to hike. After a tumble on the ice, we decided against hiking the distance between locks; instead, we opted to drive from lock to lock. The only casualty of the fall was discovered an hour later, when I decided to change lenses. As I removed the lens cap, pieces of glass fell to the ground. I immediately thought the front element of my 300mm lens was broken, rendering the lens useless. However, I discovered that only the UV filter was broken - the lens cap was driven into the filter, breaking it, but protecting the front element of the lens. This proves the inexpensive UV filters are worth their weight in gold. Make sure all of your lenses have a UV filter on them, if only to protect them against scratches and accidental breakage.

Ice "Locked"

Hennepin in Winter Lock 23 of the historic Hennepin Canal was still frozen solid, despite two days of weather near 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and a day of rain showers. Snowmobile tracks were the only sign of people; not a single footprint in the snow other than ours, as we hiked on the extremely slippery towpath. We don't really ever see many people anywhere on the canal, even in summer, but on this day, we didn't run into anyone else. Formerly called the Illinois and Mississippi Canal, the Hennepin Canal connects the Mississippi River and the Illinois River, two major waterways serving Illinois. Prior to railroads and good roads, canals such as these were the main method of transporting goods from one part of the country to another. The 33 lock Hennepin Canal is constructed of concrete -the first U.S. canal built using this new the technology. Construction began in 1892, and the first boat made the complete 104 mile voyage in 1907. At the same time this canal was being constructed, the locks on the Illinois River were widened to accommodate larger boats, making the Hennepin Canal obsolete before it was ever completed. Today, the canal and towpath are used for fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and snowmobiling.

As Far As the Eye Can See

As Far as the Eye Can See

The Michigan City East Pierhead is locked in ice - ice that extends as far as the eye can see, and covers over 60 percent of the surface of Lake Michigan. While this ice seems solid, it's made up of chunks of drift ice, pushed by the wind into the shelf ice on shore.  Snow and more ice filled in the gaps between the chunks, forming what appears to be a solid slab.

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore can be seen on the horizon at the left of the image.  Locked in by mounds of ice on one side, and closed parking lot gates on the other, waiting for spring and thousands of visitors.  I prefer visiting in winter, when I'm usually the only person in sight, and the views are ever changing.

Indiana Dunes Shelf Ice

Indiana Dunes Shelf Ice

The sand dunes of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore seen from far offshore, beyond the shelf ice that lines the beach.  The space between the mounds of ice in the foreground, and the 125 foot tall sand dunes in the distance is Lake Michigan - frozen solid with shelf ice, and drift ice.  This winter, over 60 percent of Lake Michigan is covered in ice, and liquid water cannot be seen anywhere between shore and the horizon.

If you view this image full size, the ice along the shore is clearly visible;  mounded up by waves crashing in to the shore several weeks ago. This provides an example of the extent of the ice.

While this ice appear solid, it's actually floating on the surface of the lake, and moving slowly.  Extremely dangerous to walk on, the temptation is far too great for the people who ignore the danger signs and venture out onto the ice - a potentially deadly undertaking.

I was in a safe location while taking this photo, not on the shelf ice.

Bright Snowcovered Lake


Following a day of light snow, and weeks of below average temperatures, the ice on Lake Michigan is not only bright white, it's covering over 60 percent of the lake - more than we've seen in decades.  The sun made the 16 degree temperatures seem warm, as we made our way through knee high snow to the pier.  Once on the pier, we made certain to stay on the actual pier, and not walk on the thick shelf ice that was mounded next to and on to the pier.

The trek out was fairly easy considering all of the ice, but toward the end of the pier, as I made my way around the lighthouse, the surface was very slippery, and the mounds didn't make it any easier to stay upright either.

Going out onto the pier in winter, gives you a great view of the shelf ice - from off shore.  Photographs of that, coming soon.

Colored Ice

Colored Ice
As water flows over and through the sandstone canyon walls, it picks up minerals and particles, and deposits them on the canyon floor.  In winter, the minerals and particles freeze in the ice, creating interesting earthtone colored ice that matches the canyon walls.

The colored ice was almost disorienting in some places, as the perfectly smooth colored ice made people and items appear to float above the surface, as well as reflect the canyon walls.  Certainly an interesting thing to experience first hand.

Beyond Cedar Point

Beyond Cedar Point
Beyond Cedar Point lies a short, blind canyon containing two waterfalls each approximately 20 feet in height. In winter, the waterfalls freeze, often creating caves of ice between the frozen waterfall and the canyon walls. It's great fun exploring these caves; they evolve everyday, and are rarely the same two visits in a row.

Often very slippery to climb into, but well worth the effort; it's as if you're transported to the underworld when inside. Visually similar to rock caves, the ice formations take only a fraction of the time to create as their stone counterparts.

Entering the Ice Cave
The light penetrates the ice walls, creating mesmerizing works of art from floor to ceiling. Minerals, sand and soil intermix with the ice, resulting in varying colors of ice.

Cascading Ice

Cascading Ice

Lake Falls, a 30 - 40 foot tall waterfall, froze solid this winter following a string of cold spells, some down to 17 below zero Fahrenheit. Because of the spray from the falling water, it's often very difficult to photograph so close to this waterfall, but when it's frozen, it's not a problem.

Actuallly, the water is still flowing behind the ice.  The intricate formations create a type of  "ice pipeline," allowing the water to flow within.  As you approach the frozen falls, you can often hear the flowing water, and on this day, we heard the water making a squeaking sound behind the ice.

Unlike most of the other waterfalls in the area, this particular fall does not create large ice caves behind it. More on those in the coming days.

The Ascent

The Ascent

Generally a waterfall cascading 30 to 40 feet to the bottom of the canyon, this year's harsh winter has stopped it in it's tracks.  While completely frozen on the outside, water continues to fall behind this wall of ice.  Upon arrival, we could hear the water rushing inside, and as we got closer, we could see it through the holes in the ice.

We hiked through the canyon for about three hours- in 15 degree temperatures, stopping to view over six frozen waterfalls of different sizes. With the recent snowfall, many of the ice formations were covered, and not as impressive as past years.  In many places, we could hear and see the water of the stream flowing beneath our path - the frozen stream.

We'll head back in the next couple of weeks, to check on the progress of the frozen falls elsewhere in the area.