Misc

Winter’s Unexpected Art

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Wind and water form ever-changing art at the base of Barton Dam

February in the mid-west, and it’s finally gotten really cold here in the last week or two. When winter temperatures take a deep dive like this, we Great Lakes photographers know to head out looking for beautiful ice.

Out along the big lakes, the lighthouses become caked in beautiful dripping ice, and the shorelines have buildups of blue ice shards that make the light sparkle and dance. But if you want to stay closer to home, there are other good options to see winter at play.

Here, closer to home, I like to head to the Huron River and look for icy sculptures. Barton Dam along Huron River Drive northeast of Ann Arbor, MI, is one place.

Ice growing over the spillway

Taking advantage of a sunny morning, I drove over to the dam to see how the ice was building up. I wasn’t disappointed, the ice on the spillways was building nicely, and the trees around the lower dam had taken on the look of a winter wonderland.

Background on the Dam

Barton Dam was built in 1912-13 for The Edison Illuminating Company as part of an early plan for hydroelectric power from the Huron River. The dam has been well maintained and still supplies electrical power and drinking water for the surrounding area today.

Barton Dam was designed by architect Emil Lorch . Professor Lorch was a well-known architect and the first Dean of Architecture at the University of Michigan (1906-1937). Now the classically designed powerhouse and dam are a designated Michigan civil engineering landmark.

Nature’s ice sculptures

The dam’s spillway stands 34′ tall and creates beautiful icy sculptures as the wind and spray move the water around the dam’s face with the right winter conditions.

On every visit, the shapes change and morph into unpredictable figures, coating any surface the ice settles on.

The blowing spray from the dam builds up on all the trees below the spillway.
Ice buildup on a twig, making it look like a feather.
his icy handrail looked like cauliflower
Some of them almost look like frozen figures
Even the foam created by the spillway was frozen, creating some interesting textures on the river.

There is no end to the variety of shapes and textures that the ice can take on as it wraps around the dam’s features, from dancers to cauliflower to feathers; I love to see how nature builds its art.

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