One of the most fascinating discoveries that I had living here in Michigan is the fact that you can actually walk on the lake- that is when it’s frozen! However, this post is by no means an encouragement for people to try it. The danger of the Big Lake is well-documented with accidents and deaths.
People here in Michigan do not only walk on the frozen lake but they also love ice fishing. They bring shanties at their chosen spots, cut holes, and fish to their heart’s content. Other times, they also try to live a dangerous life by driving on it and as you could guess, their cars end up buried under water. If you are like me who has never been to a frozen lake, chances are, you would love to experience this so you might as well take some precautions to heed.
Lake Michigan does not completely freeze during winter. That is why it is so dangerous to try walking on it because there is no way to know for sure that the lake is frozen enough to handle your weight. It is easy to have this illusion that the lake is completely frozen especially when there’s fresh snow dusting but read these reminders before you traverse on it.
1. Gauge the ice thickness. Frozen lake is very susceptible to breakage and it is not safe to walk on if there’s only thin sheets of ice. Experts advice making a hole and using a tape measure to know its thickness. But, doing it in one place is not enough. Make sure that you also check other parts where you will walk. At least four inches of thickness is safe enough for a simple walking. As for us, we saw fresh traces of snowmobile so we know that the area where we walked was pretty solid.
2. Look for the cracked ice. Don’t step on a cracked ice because it means the stability of the ice has been compromised already. Watching out for little details like this might save your life. Lake is beautiful when it is frozen and it is easy to get distracted but remember to always take cautions.
3. Prepare for a rescue plan. Things could happen quickly. Recently, a couple of men who were fishing in their shanties were rescued while clinging with each other for survival. One was able to call for rescue since he had with him an emergency phone complete with a GPS tracking. The tracking system helped the rescuers to locate them.
4. Bundle Up. An additional clothing can save your life. Make sure that you are properly clothed to keep you warm. The are special kinds of clothing designed to handle extreme cold.
5. Go with another person. Do not venture into the frozen lake alone. With another person, at least someone can make the call when something happens. The first time I did it, I was too scared to walk that far but I was braver the second time. I didn’t need much prodding from my husband because I do enjoy doing it.
Lastly, do not try it if you love your life. Lake Michigan is beautiful when it is frozen but it can be utterly dangerous. Again, so many accidents happen every winter. Have fun but always take precautions at heart.
Remember, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Based on studies, once a thin layer of ice film forms on a lake, it will add 1 inch of ice for every 15 freezing degree days in a 24 hour period. Example: If we had a day with 5 freezing degree days, you would use the formula 5/15 = .33.
Once the surface water falls to 32 F, it freezes. The freezing then spreads downward into the lake and the ice thickens. Unless the lake is very shallow, you will find liquid water below the ice. This deeper water is about 40 F; fortunately fish can live in this cold temperature.