During winters in Minnesota, it is a guarantee that you’ll come into contact with ice in one way or another. In some instances, it can be annoying. But in other ways, it can be awe inspiring. On the North Shore of Lake Superior, ice is something we marvel at. From frozen lakes to ice-covered waterfalls to the small ice sculptures that form on the shorelines of Lake Superior, we find ice to be a magical part of our winter seasons.
Ice forms on Lake Superior every single winter. Some years, like during last year’s mild winter, you can only find it on sheltered sections of the lake. The Grand Marais Harbor and the Duluth/Superior area are common spots where a glaze forms over the Great Lake. Other years, the entire lake freezes. That is rare and most recently occurred in 1996. Most commonly, ice will cover about 50-60% of Lake Superior’s surface. In 2019, when we saw the wolves on Lake Superior in front of Bluefin Bay, we were lucky to experience 95% coverage.
Lake Superior ice is notoriously fickle. No matter how cold the winter gets, the movement of the water underneath makes the ice on top unreliable (just ask the 26 ice fisherman that had to be rescued by the coast guard in Duluth last winter). Because of the risks, ice formations are best enjoyed from the shoreline. The spray from waves will often cling onto trees and bushes creating fantastic icicle sculptures. Occasionally, when the wind and waves pick up after a period of stillness, crashed ice will form along the beaches.
Below you will find a list of our top 10 recommended locations for finding ice formations.