Best time to travel to Michigan

Ice Shards on the Great Lakes in Michigan

The ice cover gets shattered to knife-sharp pieces as spring takes over winter

Best time: mid–February–late March

Ice Shards on the Great Lakes
Ice Shards on the Great Lakes
Ice Shards on the Great Lakes
Ice Shards on the Great Lakes
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Ice shards can be dangerous, but they surely look stunning! The phenomenon occurs during colder winters. When weather permits ice shards on the Great Lakes attract many photographers and nature enthusiasts. They can be observed in late winter to early spring on Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and even Lake Michigan that sometimes gets an ice cover.

Shards of blue ice start piling up when temperatures are rising in February, and the thaw causes water underneath the ice to move, pushing it up. Lake Superior, which is the largest of the Great Lakes, gets almost completely frozen on some years. In 2019, the ice coverage reached 90%, while in 2020 it was around 20%. Ice shards can be observed along the shore in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. Duluth, Minnesota, is where locals see it every other winter.

Lake Michigan can get covered in ice by 56% on, especially cold winters. In 2020 it barely had any ice, though. Still, if you get lucky, you can still see impressive ice shards in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, South Haven, Michigan, and even in Chicago, Illinois. The Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Huron usually showcases amazing ice shards in late February. The phenomenon is dependent on the weather and the severity of winter. Unfortunately, with global warming progressing, winters get warmer and the Grat Lakes get less ice cover, so you will need all your luck to see it.

Practical info

When is the best time to observe ice shards on the Great Lakes in Michigan?

Visitors can observe beautiful ice shards on the Great Lakes in Michigan from mid-February to late March, when temperatures begin to rise and the thaw pushes the ice upwards. However, global warming has led to increasingly milder winters, diminishing the breathtaking sight of the ice shards. Observing the ice shards is about luck and careful observation. A professional guide could ensure visitors' safety and provide the best observation spots. Show more

Where are the best spots to see ice shards on Lake Michigan besides Chicago?

Apart from Chicago, some of the best places to witness the beautiful ice shards on Lake Michigan include South Haven, Michigan, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Straits of Mackinac between the lake and Huron. It is important to note that the quantity and quality of ice shards might vary depending on the winter's severity and the weather conditions. Global warming has had a considerable impact, making it challenging to observe the shards without professional assistance. Show more

What causes ice shards to form on the Great Lakes?

Ice shards form on the Great Lakes between mid-February and late March, when temperatures begin to rise, leading to thaw and water movement underneath the ice. The moving water under the ice pushes it upwards, leading to the formation of beautiful shards of ice. The formation isn't uniform, so the quantity and quality of ice shards on different lakes might vary based on weather conditions and the severity of winters. Show more

How dangerous can ice shards be for visitors?

Visitors should be cautious when exploring the areas around ice shards on the Great Lakes as the shards have sharp edges that could cause serious injuries. Additionally, the ice sheets surrounding the shards could collapse at any moment. Visitors are advised to observe the shards from a safe distance or engage a professional guide for a more fulfilling and safer experience. Show more

How does global warming affect the formation of ice shards on the Great Lakes?

Global warming has caused the Great Lakes to experience less ice cover due to warmer winters, making it challenging to witness the beautiful natural phenomenon of ice shards. Visitors might require the help of professional guides to ensure a better chance of seeing the shards. Warmer winters have also caused a reduction in the quantity and quality of ice shards, requiring visitors to have some luck to witness the beautiful spectacle. Show more

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