Winter is beautiful at the Eben Ice Caves

Eben Ice cave in Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Tom Clark

Eben Ice cave in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by Tom Clark

One of Michigan’s awesome winter features are the Eben Ice Caves in the Hiawatha National Forest. They explain that the Eben Ice Caves are located within the Rock River Canyon Wilderness (RRCW) which:

…includes approximately 4,700 acre (7.5 sq mile) and was designated in the Michigan Wilderness Act of 1987. During the mid- and late-winter months, many people visit RRCW to see the Eben Ice Caves.

…Although not “true” caves, they are made up of vertical walls of ice formed by water seeping through the sandstone bedrock cliff edge. As the temperature drops, these intermittent leaks create ice stalactites over the entrance to the bedrock undercuts. While ice caves are a phenomenon in the winter, the summer visitor would only see algae-covered rocks and dense foliage. The caves are within RRCW. Wilderness designation is the highest level of protection granted to federal lands.

You can read on for more & also be sure to check out the Eben Ice Caves Facebook page for tips & information on visiting.

Tom took this photo a couple of Januarys ago. Follow Tom on Facebook & at tom-clark.net. See more in his awesome U.P. Roadtrip to find ICE – 1/22/19 gallery on Flickr!

More pics from the Eben Ice Caves on Michigan in Pictures!

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TBT: Columns of Ice at the Eben Ice Cave

Eben Ice Caves March 19, 2007

Columns of Ice, Eben Ice Cave, photo by John Clement Howe.

EDITOR’S NOTE: With the rise of coronavirus, it seems to me that we could all use a little reconnection with our lovely state of Michigan, so I’m going to try to dig out some old photos and share some new ones to help keep you close to Mama Michigan as you socially distance!

This photo originally appeared March 20, 2007 and is one of a nice set titled At the Ice Cave of Eben taken in March of 2007 at the Eben Ice Caves in the Upper Peninsula near Munising. My friend Dr. John Anderton of the Northern Michigan University Department of Geography who has since passed away explained their formation:

The Eben Ices Caves are located just a few miles north of the little town of Eben, within the Rock River Canyon Wilderness Area (RRCW). The RRCW, which became a Wilderness in 1987 as a part of the Michigan Wilderness Act, is located approximately 15 miles west of the town of Munising, MI, within the Munising Ranger District of the Hiawatha National Forest. It comprises 4,460 acres and contains outstanding natural features including Rock River, Silver Creek and Ginpole Lake. Within its interior there are two short user-developed trails (totaling about 1.75 miles) leading to Rock River Falls and the Eben Ice Caves. An estimated 1,700 people visit the area annually (USFS records) …

The Ice Caves are not true caves at all. They consist of walls or vertical sheets of ice that form across the face of overhanging rock outcrops. In the summer, small unimpressive waterfalls and groundwater seeps may found along the overhangs. In the winter, however, the water hits the cold air, drips downward under the influence of gravity and freezes, creating spectacular ice caves. Each winter they look a little different, but typically there are openings in the ice that allow you to walk behind the ice walls.

The rock overhangs, where the ice caves form, consist of outcrops of Munising Formation (Cambrian) with a capstone of AuTrain Formation (Ordovician). The outcrops are found along the south side of the valley of Silver Creek, which is part of a network of secondary glacial drainage channels that formed during the Marquette Advance (about 10,000 years ago). Theses secondary drainage channels flowed easterly into the AuTrain-Whitefish Channel, a primary glacial meltwater channel that flowed south to the Lake Michigan basin. Groundwater naturally seeps from these rocks, providing the water necessary to form the ice caves in the winter.

For directions and more info, check out  Munising Ice Climbing from Travel Marquette!

Feeling Green at the Eben Ice Caves

Feeling Green at Eben Ice Caves

Feeling Green, photo by Joseph Snoweart

This weekend features many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the state. I hope that if you’re taking part you have a lot of fun, stay safe and remember to be kind to any leprechauns you happen to meet!

View Joseph’s photo from the Eben Ice Caves background bigtacular and see more in his slideshow.

More winter wallpaper and more about the Eben Ice Caves on Michigan in Pictures.

Exploring the Eben Ice Caves

Exploring the Ice Caves

Exploring the Ice Caves, photo by Michigan Nature Photog

View Greg’s photo bigger and see more in his great Winter slideshow. Catch another shot of the ice caves here and here on Facebook. While you’re there, Greg is also holding a contest and giving a print to 2 winners!

Last year I shared a photo feature on the Eben Ice Caves by Nina Asunto. On Black Coffee at Sunrise, her excellent blog of explorations of Michigan’s wild places, she writes (in part):

During winter, ground water seeps over the edge and down through the sandstone where it freezes, creating huge curtains of ice and closing off the front of the outcrops to form caves.

We had both seen a few photos of the ice caves, but none of them really captured the size of this phenomenon. It was difficult to decide where to begin to tackle it photographically, and we immediately began climbing around the hillsides to get a more expansive view, and crouching and crawling around at the base of the ice to see every possible angle…

What we weren’t able to capture, however, was the amazing sound inside the cave. The drips of water falling from above created wonderful echoes and added to the cave atmosphere. There is much variation of color and texture to the ice in different parts of the cave. Some formations were smooth and clear, others were bumpy and hollow-sounding, and there were some columns that looked like dripping candle wax.

Read more on her blog and get lots more on this transitory Michigan wonder on Michigan in Pictures!

Eben Ice Caves in the Rock River Wilderness

A Healthy Green Glow

A Healthy Green Glow, photo by nasunto

I know it’s wintertime when I start seeing a lot of people asking about the Eben Ice Caves. Like many of the subjects on Michigan in Pictures, I don’t know much more than what I write on the blog. Recently, however, a good-hearted soul created the Eben Ice Caves Facebook page to serve as a hub for information about this wintertime wonder of Michigan.

Nina Asunto writes one of my favorite blogs, Black Coffee at Sunrise, a delightful wander through some of Michigan’s most fascinating places. Nina’s feature on the Eben Ice Caves explains that they are located in the Rock River Wilderness in the western section of Hiawatha National Forest.

Rock River Canyon is 150 feet deep and lined with sandstone outcrops, which have been eroded to form concave overhangs. During winter, ground water seeps over the edge and down through the sandstone where it freezes, creating huge curtains of ice and closing off the front of the outcrops to form caves.

In winter it is possible to access the ice caves from the south side of the wilderness area. A few miles north of Eben Junction, visitors can park their cars by the side of the road and cross an open field to the forest. The field is private property, but the owner allows for its use in winter to access the ice caves…

We had both seen a few photos of the ice caves, but none of them really captured the size of this phenomenon…

What we weren’t able to capture, however, was the amazing sound inside the cave. The drips of water falling from above created wonderful echoes and added to the cave atmosphere. There is much variation of color and texture to the ice in different parts of the cave. Some formations were smooth and clear, others were bumpy and hollow-sounding, and there were some columns that looked like dripping candle wax.

Read on for many more photos. You can also view this photo background bigtacular and see more in her fantastic Eben Ice Caves slideshow on Flickr!

More Eben Ice Caves on Michigan in Pictures.