Barton Dam


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.

Nothing burns like the cold. After less than a half hour out at Barton Dam, we couldn’t feel our fingers and what we could feel HURT. I was all over the idea of grabbing the equipment and making a heads-down dash to the car. But Greg looked up and with the dam at your back, you’re facing the train trestle and trellised walkway, which was just, well…, kind of beautiful. As photography technique, never skip the opportunity to look up.

Barton Dam is probably the most photogenic of all of Ann Arbor’s dams, but it really puts on a show in winter. The frozen cascades look more like the calcifications you’d see in caves and the thick ice in the downstream basin shimmers pale green and turquoise in the morning light, while the old powerhouse still somehow manages to look a bit gothic and moody. That said, it’s a short, but cold, trek in. Good thing we took pictures! Click through the gallery above to experience some of it yourself. The dam was opened in 1913 and is still used to generate electricity, though now it’s owned by the city of Ann Arbor, rather than Detroit Edison. Check out this circa 1913 view of it from somewhere in the bowels of the UMich libs system. Where is This? Barton Dam can most easily be accessed from Huron River Drive from the city park located off of Huron River Drive and Bird Road.