Ice caves form on Lake Michigan
"It's sights I've never seen before in all my life - and I've traveled the world 'round," said Tom Auch, a teacher at Northwestern Michigan College.
Just north of Leland in Leelanau County, ice caves have formed along the eastern side of Lake Michigan.
The caves are formed by the wind and wave action, westerly winds push slushy ice up along the shoreline. Layer after layer freezes on top of each other, and forms huge piles of ice. Some of them reach thirty feet high.
"When the sun comes out it's just these beautiful hues of blue," said George Meredith, of Traverse City. "It's a magic wonderland."
Waves then carve out spectacular crevices and the freezing spray creates icicle-like formations. Once the wind calms, more sheet ice is formed on the water. When the wind picks back up, the waves shove the broken ice pieces together, creating an jagged angular ice sheet. It's flat enough that you can walk on to see the caves.
"These are something special, I've never seen anything like it, they were as big as a garage, cliffs of 20-30 feet," said Auch. "It was pretty special."
"For all intents and purposes, it looks like you're on one of the polar ice caps," Meredith added. "There's just huge looming pieces of ice, sheets of ice like gigantic sheets of glass, and there's just miles and miles of these caves offshore that you can explore."
The caves are about quarter to half a mile from land. If you're thinking about making the trek, anyone can do it. Ask the Heitman family who was out on the ice Wednesday. The family of four took advantage of the neat ice formations to have a fun, out-of-the-box learning experience.
If you're thinking about heading out to the caves, it's recommended you dress warmly, wear snowpants, boots, and ice cleats if you have them, and take a buddy. The terrain is a bit rough, so give yourself some time to get out there. Also, remember to be respectful of the residents that live along the lake. With a warm-up on the way, check them out this weekend - since warmer weather may cause larger crevices in the ice and make the caves unsafe.