Getting cabin fever? Well, bundle up and take a trip to a beach-front state park! Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Long Island parks or the many parks on small lakes: Glimmerglass, Green Lakes, Long Point-Chatauqua Lake, Allegany, or many others.
This is the time to explore the many interesting patterns and colors of wintertime “icescapes.”
For now, enjoy some spectacular views from Southwick Beach State Park and its wild ice formations on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario. With no other visitors in sight on this day, there was no problem for this intrepid explorer to keep safe distances while enjoying the scenery.
During such visits, dress warmly and in layers, as shorelines can be chilly, as well as windy. But it is the wind that makes for fantastic ice sculptures along the shores. Sometimes the nearby trees or dune grasses will be laden with frost and salt spray. Or you may find some interesting driftwood and shells tossed up on the shore by the waves and wind.
Look way out to the water’s edge and you will realize that maybe that is not water but rather the frozen froth of waves forming an icy ridge on the beach.
Finding animal tracks in ice, snow or even frozen sand also is often easier than in other seasons. Look for footprints; can you figure out who has been there?
Winter is a wonderful time of the year, there’s snow and ice everywhere in our State Parks. Within that snow and ice, you can see traces of what animals have been there – maybe even just moments before you arrive! One of the traces that can help you identify which animal it came from is…
Ice can take interesting or fantastical shapes, as shown by the picture above at Southwick Beach.
How does the ice form shapes like this? A breeze pushes waves against the upper shore and the water at the top edge freezes as it hits the frozen sand. Then thin layers of water build up at the icy edge forming this wild pattern of ledges extending a mile down the beach.
And wintertime can create its own interesting illusions, such as this picture above, in which it appears the forest is floating in the sky above the water. This phenomenon is known as a “superior mirage” which tends to happen in cooler weather, when the air is colder above your line of sight than below. In this case, the air temperature is colder than the lake water. On this day the air was about 20 degrees and the water 40 degrees.
Read more about the science of a superior mirage on Wikipedia.
There is so much to see along our shorelines even in winter. Get out in the fresh air, explore some winter beaches and take pictures to share.
All photos of Southwick Beach State courtesy of Kathy Faber-Langendoen
Post by Julie Lundgren, State Parks Ecologist, NY Natural Heritage Program
Prepare to Explore more of State Parks in the winter by reading these previous posts from the NYS Parks Blog.
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