Post Polar-vortex frozen thumb tour feb. 2019

Polar-vortex 2019! Two days after arctic temperatures chilled in the Midwest for a few days, I headed out to Michigan’s thumb to see the frozen aftermath. The best way around the thumb is M -25 along the shores of Lake Huron. It stretches from Port Huron to Saginaw. Most of the road is a house length away from Lake Huron. From time to time you can see un-obstructed views of Lake Huron. First stop, Port Huron, last exit before Canada. I headed to Pine Grove Park along the St. Clair River. From the Riverwalk, you can take in views of the Bluewater Bridge, Sarnia Ontario and numerous freighters. I was expecting to find the river mostly frozen after a few days of single digit highs and negative wind chills. What I found, was a mostly ice-free river.

I can see Canada

After walking along the river, I headed to Lighthouse Park, just north of the Blue Water Bridge. Home of Michigan’s oldest lighthouse (built in 1829) and a great beach spot in the summer. I walked onto the snow-covered beach and found piles of ice on the shore instead of horizontal sheets. Most of Lake Huron was ice free. The cover extends out from shore almost fifty yards. Again, I was expecting a massive hockey rink between the U.S.A. and Canada.

Fort Gratiot Light

Next stop on the list was Lexington and its artificial harbor. Only thirty minutes north of Port Huron. I found the marina frozen over with many ice fishers out in their huts. The most was draped over the breakwater causeway. There was so much ice on the causeway that I couldn’t get all the way across it. I barely got halfway out the causeway. Along the north shore of the harbor, there were large ice piles on the beach. They ranged from 20 to 30 feet high and reminded me of Pride Rock from The Lion King. I was amazed how calm the water was. There were also large piles of ice that look like piles of broken glass.

Lexington Harbor
Lexington Harbor in the summer
Beach in the summer
Pride “Rock”

Thirteen miles north of Lexington is Port Sanilac. It is almost a carbon copy of Lexington with an artificial harbor (also frozen with ice fishers). Port Sanilac does have a historical lighthouse built in 1886.

Another thirty minutes north and another artificial harbor. Harbor Beach is the largest artificial harbor of the three; one mile out and three miles wide. Harbor Beach is a more industrial harbor, there is a Dow Chemical plant and power plant. At the end of the break-wall is the Harbor beach light built in 1885. I headed to Lincoln Park and the almost ¼ mile long pier out among the ice. Beyond the harbor the majority of the lake is ice free.

Harbor Beach Light

Further north on M-25 and west of Port Austin I found what I was looking for, ice for as far as the eye can see. It looks like the planet Hoth, from Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back. It was desolate and eerie. It was eerie how quiet it was, no crashing waves, no noise at all.

Summer comparison

If you are looking for some ice beauty or peace and quiet, head to the frozen beaches of Michigan’s thumb.  The further north you go, the more ice you will find, easy enough right? If you aren’t looking for these things or ice fishing find something else to do with your time because there isn’t much else to do. If you are making all the stops that I did from metro Detroit, expect to spend eight hours. If you are only going to one of  these destinations, expect to spend three hours round trip from metro Detroit.     

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