Nov 29 2008

Lake Erie Ice Caves: Cool Blog Post

Published by at 11:42 pm under Hiking: Monroe,Hiking: Regional

So far, this winter has been a bit colder than usual.  Many inland lakes are beginning to freeze and boat launch areas along Lake Erie’s western shore are starting to ice up.  This, of course, is a monumental change for fishermen and other outdoor lovers.

First, the open water fishermen get very depressed.  Their time has just about run out – and just about a month earlier than normal.  Second, the ice fishermen are getting very excited – maybe too excited.  Everyone is asking if there is safe ice.  Geez, people.  It’s still November.  Here’s a mouth-of-the-River-Raisin ice report from 11/23 posted by “rootbeer” on the Michigan Sportsman forums:

Little late, but report from Sun. 11/23. Launched at Hellenberg Sunday morning. Wow- had to break ice for a mile down the river. I’m glad I was not the first one out- there was already a semi broken up trail thru the ice. A little brisk out there. 20 degrees? The spray from the waves froze up on my windshield right away. I played peek a boo over the windshield…Headed to the hot hole. Bass are in all along the shore. Caught a dozen in about 1/2 hr. Water temp was around 63 degrees…A big bonus- on the way up the canal, I saw not one, but 4 or 5 bald eagles. Sitting in trees along the shore, or flying over the canal. Awesome!!

For birdwatchers, the freeze-up is also helpful.  Some birds need open water areas to survive.  These birds will congregate over the last remaining open water areas – places like power plant discharge outlets or inland lakes with underwater springs.  As I was returning from Black Friday shopping, I noticed large groups of birds at the remaining open water in Tecumseh’s Red Mill Pond and Lake Adrian.  Birdwatchers, of course, love being able to see many birds in one place.

For hikers, the freezing weather presents opportunities for new hiking routes.  Monroe is filled with marshy areas that are inaccessible except via boat during the warm months.  But mud often freezes solid.  And an inch of ice over frozen mud can make, say, an island temporarily hikeable. 

And sometimes extreme weather on Lake Erie can create its own geography.  Along Point Pelee in Ontario, for example, wave action and changing winds can create ice mounds ten to twenty feet high.  And this same shifting weather can create ice caves in between large blocks of ice.  Please be aware that exploring these areas must be done with extreme care.

This brings me to the inspiration for this post.  My Google Alert for “Lake Erie” pulled up an Alchem Company website that shows ice ridges from 1993.  I highly recommend a click at the link below to see the best Lake Erie ice cave pic that I have ever seen.  Excerpt:

To the right is a photo of the lake in early February showing my friend Sam on top of an ice ridge. The lake freezes only about every other winter and rarely to a distance of more than a mile or two from shore. Occasionally though the lake will freeze most of the way or all the way across. About once every 10 or 15 years a gale from the North will drive large ice flows together along the South shore as in this photo. In such cases the edges of the ice sheets are crushed as they collide to form pressure ridges. These photos show an unusual freeze which occurred around 1993 which produced the highest ridges I have ever seen. Some of the ice mounds in these ridges are over 20 feet (7 meters high).

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