Seven Beautiful Photos of Blue Ice in Pure Michigan

Today, visual artist and photographer Shawn Stockman-Malone explains the beautiful blue ice found in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, along with seven spectacular photos to showcase this wonderful winter phenomenon. 

The winter of 2013-2014 has been one of the coldest on record, and in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, many of those winter nights have reached zero degrees or below. These consistently frigid temperatures have  transformed the region into a very frozen winter wonderland, and if you know where to look, you can find an abundance of  the most beautiful of winter phenomenon, aquamarine blue ice.

With the Great Lakes reaching record ice cover, there will be plenty of opportunity to look for blue ice along shoreline as the ice breaks up and piles up with wind shifts this Spring. In a big freeze year like this one, it’s not uncommon to see ice slabs piled up that are  3-6 feet thick or more! And as the sunlight tries to make it’s way through, the blue color really stands out, even from a distance.

Another good place to look for blue ice is around the many seeps and waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula.  Most notable, due to the concentration of ice formations in one area,  is in the Munising, MI area.  Thanks to it’s sandstone cliffs and ridges in which water seeps all year. Just about everyone has heard about the Apostle Islands ice caves by now, but the ice of Grand Island just may be the Midwest’s best kept secret when it comes to frozen winter beauty.  Part of Grand Island’s ambiguity is that it is not as accessible as the Apostles due to it’s access being dependent upon the channel freezing enough for safe crossing. On the island, long stretches of entire cliff faces are lined in ice curtains, and when looking through some of these ice pillars back lit by the sun, they look like magical green and blue spikes of kryptonite.  This year, the hard freeze of the East channel allowed visitors to cross over to Grand Island via a moderate hike, snowshoe or ski to see some of the best blue ice around.

You must be aware of ice conditions before crossing, as the ice pack you are walking on can open up in an instant on a wind shift or storm.   The Grand Island ice curtains took months to form, but undergo change on a daily basis, with the thaw of the mid day sun and the re-freeze of the next frigid night creating new icicles and pillars.  It becomes obvious from observing some of the ice pillars that have collapsed, that this ice weighs tons, so great care must be taken when in proximity of these magnificent frozen structures, as you never know when one could come down.

With more cold temps in the forecast, there’s plenty of winter left. This is the year to get out to one of these places and find your frozen winter wonderland! Here are seven spectacular photos to inspire your visit.

A couple observes the wonder of the Grand Island ice curtains

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

A broken pillar of ice creates abstract ice art

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

A person is dwarfed by the ice curtains of Grand Island

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

View of the ice curtains looking back towards Munising

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

The view looking up

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

The ice becomes bluer after each new layer of water freezes, Presque Isle, Marquette

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Caught up with Justin “Bugsy” Sailor of Yooper Steez at the Grand Island Ice Curtains

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Photo

Have you spotted any beautiful blue ice near you?

Shawn Stockman-Malone is a visual artist based out of Marquette, Michigan and runs LakeSuperiorPhoto, a photography gallery of her work on 211 S. Front St, Marquette MI. Her work can also be seen on her website and Facebook page.

Exploring the Eben Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things To Do in the U.P. tells us how to have a fantastic Pure Michigan winter adventure at the Eben Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Photo courtesy of Habibi Photography

The Eben Ice caves in Marquette County are one of Michigan’s prime winter attractions. Each winter, once the ice caves start to freeze up (usually sometime in December), visitor’s flock to the tiny town of Eben Junction to see the ice caves and, while they’re out there, support local businesses like the Eben Ice Caves concession stand, the Rock River Cafe and the New Moon Tavern.

Eben Ice Caves – The Basics

The “Rock River Canyon Ice Caves” better known as the Eben Ice Caves, form when melting snow runs over the edge of a small cliff and freezes, forming “ice caves” Much like the large ice formations along Munising’s Grand Island and parts of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, if you were to visit here in the summer you would see little to no water running over the edge.

It’s the perfect combination of a slow snow melt and frigid temperatures that causes these “caves” of ice to form.

The Hike to the Caves

Photo courtesy of Things to Do in the U.P.

This isn’t an attraction where you can pull up in your car, walk a few feet and be done. It’s not a long hike, but yes, you will have to get out and stretch your legs. And for the pet owners out there, yes, the area is pet friendly. Each time I’ve visited the ice caves I’ve seen more than a few dogs on the trail.

The hike from the parking area to the ice caves is about .75 miles. The first .25 mile stretch is a very flat walk through a farmer’s field. And just a note on that, the farmer allows people like you and me to pass through the field at no charge and if the kind family that owns the land ever stopped allowing this, the hike to the ice caves would be much longer. In addition to that, the land owners now offer portable bathrooms in the parking area at no charge. So, show your thanks by purchasing a hot beverage or a snack at their concession stand if you’re able!

A Word on Snowshoes and Ice Cleats

Photo courtesy of Things to Do in the U.P.

After a foot of snow got dumped on the area just two days before my recent visit, I asked a friend who lives in nearby Chatam if I should bring snowshoes. “It’s never a bad idea to bring the shoes,” he said, “but I”m guessing it’ll be packed down by then.”

He was right. Snowshoes would have only made the hike more difficult. So if you have them, bring them in case you happen to visit right after a big snowstorm. Otherwise, wear ice cleats.

Some form of ice cleats (I like Yaktrax but any of them should help!) can go a long way toward enhancing your Eben Ice Caves experience. Trust me. On any given day, about half the people visiting the caves are wearing cleats, and the other half wish they had them. The main reason is that, with ice cleats, you’re able to walk around inside the ice caves on relatively sure footing. And without them, it’s a little treacherous. The ice inside the caves is very smooth so traditional rubber boots tend to slide around quite a bit.

But another reason to wear cleats is that the trail out to the caves has some steep ups and downs. You’ll see many spots where people slide down hills on their bottoms, and then struggle to get up the other side. In short, if you’re wearing cleats (like myself and my cohorts were on our last outing) you’ll be able to walk right up and down those slippery spots. On my last visit, a college aged girl looked a little stunned as I walked right by her on a slippery hill and said “Oh, so that’s what it’s like when you have traction.”

Okay, enough about the ice cleats. You get the point!

Getting There

Photo courtesy of Habibi Photography

The Eben Ice Caves used to be a little hard to find, but no longer. Just set your GPS for Eben Junction, MI. (Or use Google Maps to find it.) From M-94 in Eben Junction, turn north onto Eben Road and drive about 1.5 miles to Frey Road. Turn right on Frey Road and drive to the end (if you can) or if it’s a busy day just find a spot to park along the road. It’s not unusual to see fifty or more cars parked here on a nice weekend day. Also, Eben Road and Frey Road have yellow signs on them that say “Ice Caves”, so keep an eye out for those.

All in all, though it’s a bit of a drive out to the ice caves, I’d highly recommend checking them out! As far as Michigan ice caves go, these are the most accessible I know of.

Have you been to the Eben Ice Caves? What did you think?


Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan.



A Behind the Scenes Peek at Mackinac Island Wedding Photography

We recently had the chance to sit down with Mackinac Island Wedding Photographer, Andrejka Photography, and ask a few questions about what it’s like to be a wedding photographer on Mackinac Island, why she chose the island, what makes it so special, and share a few stories. Here’s what we found out:

Photo by Andrejka Photography

Q: Why did you choose Mackinac Island to open your photography business?

A:  Clients and fellow photographers often ask why I would leave beautiful California to go to an island in Michigan…well nothing compares. Being a photographer on Mackinac Island isn’t like anywhere else in the world. I’ve photographed weddings and portraits all over the world. Being a photographer on the island is about more than just shooting pretty pictures. It’s about introducing my clients to a whole new world, giving them an insider’s experience to an island that is unlike any other.

Q: What do you want newlyweds to remember about their Mackinac Island wedding?

A:  I want couples to feel connected to the location, the venue and the people. This is a location where a couple has the opportunity to be part of a community that isn’t necessarily their own. By day two on the island they can walk into a restaurant and the bartender will know their name. Their wedding coordinator is having dinner next to them. Their florist is outside walking the dog. This is something you can only experience on Mackinac Island. I want couples to feel a part of something larger than just their 4-hour wedding day. They should leave the island feeling like they’ve gained a lifelong friendship with a unique location that only a few truly get to experience at its fullest.

Photo by Andrejka Photography

Q: What makes Mackinac Island a unique destination for weddings and wedding photography?

A: Vendors work together as a team more than anywhere else I’ve ever worked. We not only see each other at events but we see each other at the grocery store. I have most every wedding coordinator on speed dial.

Q. How does your job as a wedding photographer on Mackinac Island differ from other destinations?

A: As an island photographer there are certain skills that make our jobs unique. Besides knowing the secret places for photos, and having the relationships to make extra special things happen, having an island bike that can hold your equipment is a must. Also, having the endurance to make it up those hills is critical in chasing after your couple’s carriage rides. Shooting while biking is a skill that doesn’t hurt as well.

Q: Have you ever had any funny or unexpected happenings while shooting wedding photography on the island?

A: Only on Mackinac Island. I had left my bike for my assistant to use and was quickly back to the resort when I realized the wedding party was going to pass me in their carriage. Well as I’m speed walking with all my equipment in hand a dock porter friend with a big bike basket (no name to protect the innocent as what I’m about to tell you is technically illegal) pulls up to say hi. I’m clearly in a hurry and he says ‘Hop in. I’ll give you a ride.” Next thing I know I’m being carted like a piece of luggage down the street with my equipment in my lap and feet hanging out of the basket. It worked! I beat the carriage to the resort with time to spare.

Photo by Andrejka Photography

Q: Have you had any close calls or mishaps while doing wedding photography on the island?

A: I always meet with my couples the day or two before their wedding. One day I met with a couple who happened to be from New Orleans and we started going over the plan for the next day. It included a second line from St. Anne’s Church to the Island House, an awesome idea. Not a far distance, no big deal right? Only as long as you have a permit and police escort. This was the first they were hearing of the permit and escort. Luckily, I was on my way to the Tourism Bureau where the director at the time quickly called the police station, got a permit, and had an officer there just in time as the ceremony ended. With all of the horses there are certain rules that keep everything under control, not everyone knows these rules. It is helpful to have island vendors who either know the rules or know people who know the rules. Can you imagine if the 50 New Orleans locals were taken to the little Mackinac Island jail? Not the memory they were necessarily looking for!

About Andrejka Photography

My first camera was a hot pink point and shoot in junior high. It should have been clear at that young age that photography would become more than just a hobby. I’ve always loved documenting life, however I began to realize that photography meant more to me than an image here and there. It isn’t just the art that brings joy to my profession but the many friends I’ve gained along the way. I couldn’t imagine doing any else. The excitement of love and life inspire me every day.

My love for people mixed with a background in fine art is the perfect combination for a professional photographer. It is life’s important moments that inspire my creative eye. My work has been featured in a variety of national and interview television shows, magazines, marketing ads and websites. Currently I split my time between two beautiful locations – Southern California and Northern Michigan. I have also had the pleasure of photographing portraits and weddings around the world including Hawaii, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France and even Macedonia. Follow Andrejka Photography on Facebook

Have you or someone you know gotten married on Mackinac Island? Tell us about it!