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Michigan Blue Ice, Ice Balls and Ice Volcanoes: Michigan’s Magic Ice

Blue Ice Mackinac Bridge
Photo by Paige Riccobono

Michigan Blue Ice: Rare Ice Phenomena

Michigan winters are truly special, with vast evergreen forests blanketed with layers of white, fluffy snow creating a perfect icy backdrop.

During the winter months, areas along the Michigan coastline become a snowy tundra as the Great Lakes freeze and become even greater.

Winter in Michigan brings something even more impressive than sparkling blankets of snow, however: a beautiful natural phenomenon along our Michigan beaches that you have to see to believe.

Michigan's Blue Ice

Michigan Blue Ice, Ice Balls, and Ice Volcanoes

These icy miracles: blue ice, ice volcanoes and ice balls, are epic spectacles along the beaches usually seen only in glacial ice.

Yet we have them here in Michigan, a land of amazing natural beauty even in the frozen winter. It’s true: a Michigan beach is amazing any time of the year.

What is Blue Ice?

“Blue Ice” is the name given to the towering ice chunks that pile up along the Great Lakes shoreline in striking blue hues.

We can thank air bubbles and and ice crystals for giving us this bit of winter magic that captures our attention when it appears on our Michigan shores during the late winter months.

How Does Blue Ice Form?

You can compare the hue and formation of these great ice chunks to that of a glacier. The formation occurs when snow on top of the ice is compressed and squeezes out all of the air bubbles increasing its density.

This process allows the ice to absorb colors, resulting in vibrant chunks of blue ice. When the light hits the ice, especially on a bright Michigan winter day, the sight is chillingly beautiful.

Michigan Blue Ice
Photo by Paige Riccobono

Where can I see Michigan Blue Ice?

Blue Ice is very rare, and requires the right conditions to form. As a result, Blue Ice does not appear every year. Blue Ice typically forms on northern Lake Huron near the Straits of Mackinac, the body of water that separates Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The Straits also separate the Lower and Upper Peninsula and are directly under the Mackinac Bridge, and are quite picturesque in the winter.

Blue Ice piling up on Lake Huron
Photo by Paige Riccobono

Is Michigan Blue Ice Dangerous?

We urge you to be careful and not climb too far out on the frozen Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac.

While the lake ice may look sturdy, it is unpredictable. Instead, bring binoculars or a zoom lens to capture the blue ice stacks in the distance and take many pictures.

At sunset, if the light hits the ice just right, you will have a photo that capture’s the memory of a most amazing natural phenomenon.

Blue Ice by Mackinac bridge in Michigan
Photo by Paige Riccobono

If You Go to See Blue Ice in Michigan

We recommend you travel to Mackinaw City and spend some time admiring the sights and visiting some local attractions before heading down to the Straits to catch a glimpse of the rare glacial ice.

If you do take a trip to the Mackinac area, be sure to check out the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

Not only is this building full of rich history and worth the trip solely for its architectural beauty, but it will also serve as the best vantage point to view the Mackinac Bridge and blue ice.

Other Spots to See Blue Ice in Michigan

Lake Superior is another spot to see these icy marvels. Blue Ice has even appeared as far north as the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior’s shores in Munising and at Michigan Tech University in Houghton.

It’s definitely worth braving the cold and snowy tundra to witness the blue ice in an atmosphere most suited to its glacial roots.

Ice Volcanoes in Michigan

Where to See Ice Volcanoes in Michigan

Lake Michigan’s Ice Volcanoes

If you think that Michigan’s beauty comes to a standstill in the winter months- think again. Not only do we have towering mounds of blue ice piling up on Michigan beaches, we also have ice volcanoes forming on sandbars and rock reefs creating a rare treat for viewers.

While there are many different types of volcanoes, there are no active volcanoes in Michigan.

That is, except for Lake Michigan’s ice volcanoes. Rather than molten rock shooting out of a volcano, Michigan’s volcanoes are wave-driven; shooting icy water and slush from an ice shelf on the lake.

How are Ice Volcanoes Formed?

Ice volcanoes occur when water and slush are forced through a hole in the ice sheet and the mound of ice freezes, forming a conical structure.

Ice formed cones create a mouth that expels water when struck by a wave from underneath; then, you will see the ice volcanoes erupting. It’s quite a sight to watch the waves interact with the ice and to see water and slush erupt on the shores of Michigan’s bodies of water.

Ice volcanoes are not as dangerous as they sound. In fact, they are one of the most entertaining spectacles involving ice in Michigan.

The ice volcanoes are truly otherworldly, so much so that they even occur in space on the dwarf planet Ceres, as well as the moon Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.

Ice volcano in Michigan at sunset

Where are Michigan Ice Volcanoes and Where Can I See Them?

These bizarre ice volcanoes are popping up on the shores of Lake Michigan and other various beaches around Lake Erie. You can thank the National Weather Service of Grand Rapids for first reporting the ice volcanoes erupting on Lake Michigan. Grand Rapids is close to Oval Beach, the Lake Michigan beach where these strange ice volcanoes appear.

Watch the Michigan Ice Volcanoes Erupting at Oval Beach in Saugatuck

World-famous Oval Beach in Saugatuck is one spot where the ice volcanoes form.

Watching the ice volcanoes erupt at Oval Beach is a Michigan winter-must; a once-in-lifetime sight.

One of Michigan’s best and lively beaches, Saugatuck is must-visit spot any time of the year, especially in the summer when visitors flock to its crystal-clear waters and soft, sandy beaches.

It’s also a beautiful destination for you and your family to spend a weekend, sit on the beach and watch these volcanoes and enjoy frozen Lake Michigan.

Frozen Ice Balls on Lake Michigan

Michigan Ice Balls

When you have seen enough of blue ice and the ice volcanoes have stopped erupting, you can still catch one last Michigan ice phenomenon: the fabulous ice balls of Holland, Michigan.

Formed when slush is shaped and rolled by crashing waves, these whimsical little balls are a novelty among Michiganders and tourists alike.

Located on the beaches in Holland State Park, these small oddities are a perfect pick-me-up when winter camping or hiking the park.

If, when exploring Michigan, you stumble upon the next rarity of ice, use the comment section below and please let us know.

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About the Author
Patrick Crowley is a Content Manager with My Michigan Beach. A graduate of Oakland University with a degree in Cinema Studies, he is currently finishing a second in creative writing. Two of his greatest passions are film and the outdoors. When he is not watching movies, you can find him exploring the outdoors. He is delighted to be writing about the great state of Michigan and its many natural wonders.

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