Blue Ice in Mackinaw City

March 16, 2018

Great Lakes Blue Ice

Winter might be winding down, but it is not too late to enjoy a memorable frozen site close to home. So, stop whatever you are doing, drop everything, and then point your truck north to Mackinaw City to appreciate the widely reported blue ice.

The much-photographed colorful ice formations stretch along the shore on either side of the Mackinac Bridge, as they do once a decade or so, making it well worth the trip to northern Emmet County.

Rising to the height of a two-story house in some places, and stretching for a mile or more, the undulating ice formations provide both wonder and allure.  From the top of the highest spires, open water is only a couple dozen yards farther out, however, which can change without warning so heed cautions not to venture too far out onto the ice.

Mackinaw City area police in fact warn would-be trekkers to stay close to shore, as currents are also unpredictable.  Luckily, there is plenty of good viewing space all along the Old Mackinaw Lighthouse grounds, and these warnings should not keep you from visiting.

If you do go, take care also not to trespass on anyone’s front lawn, as the myriad formations wind along not only state park property, but also neighborhood front yards.

The blue hues occur when the ice consolidates enough that air bubbles cannot interfere with the passage of light.  The effect is spectacular, as well as beautiful, with sunny days the best time to see the rich shades, at morning or late afternoon when the light is most angular.

Featured everywhere from People.com to CNN.com, the blue ice is as mesmerizing as it is uncommon, and while the recent spring-like weather will eventually shrink the formations, you don’t want to miss this all too rare phenomenon.

In addition to the area surrounding the lighthouse, the ice formations arc from west of the bridge, back east around the bend, toward the Shepler Ferry dock.   My own recent weekend trip meant jockeying for a parking spot in the Fort Michilimackinac Visitor’s parking lot, as well as dodging other hikers. Weekdays are said to be less crowded, but whenever you can, make the trip, as the ice cannot last.

Conditions do not occur every winter, and some years the ice is far less impressive.  So while it is important to heed caution as well and be neighborly, the trip to see the blue ice is worth it.