Located in the north central part of Illinois, about 50 miles west of Chicago off Interstate 80, Starved Rock State Park is one of the top tourist destinations in the state. This 2,600-acre park adjacent to the Illinois River boasts 18 sandstone canyons--14 of which have waterfalls during wet seasons. Reduced to only a trickle in early winter, these waterfalls freeze into giant ice columns during the cold weather. Some of the frozen waterfalls reach 80 feet in height, depending upon the depth of the canyon.
Early winter yields some interesting photographic opportunities often overlooked by those waiting for dramatic, in-your-face displays of nature. A narrow window exists between the time water changes to ice on lakes, rivers, and streams, and this period can produce some of the most interesting ice patterns of the season.
When most people think of beaches, they visualize the tropics--white sand, warm water, and crowds of sunbathers. My view, however, is contrary. I enjoy exploring The Great Lakes beaches in winter, when temperatures fall well below freezing. Don't get me wrong, I love tropical beaches and warm weather. But to me, a frozen shoreline offers so much more than the typical tropical beach.
In fact, in late November of this year, an early arctic weather pattern turned the Midwest cold and windy - the perfect ingredients for iced lighthouses on the Great Lakes. When I arrived at the lighthouse, my expectations were correct. This was the earliest I can remember, where the outer lighthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan was completely covered in ice. As a rule, mid to late December is the typical time for icing -cold, windy, and the lake is still liquid. Any later, and Lake Michigan tends to freeze over, and the splashing and spray are suppressed, so the lighthouses don't ice up.