Blue Ice of Parfrey’s Glen

Blue Ice of Parfrey’s Glen

You may have just a couple more days to view the blue ice at Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area before it all melts away. Yesterday I took a hike through the glen with park naturalist, Susan Johansen, to check out the ice and see how the hiking conditions were. The ice was maybe bluer and more widespread than ever.. getting to it, well, that’s another story!

Parfrey’s Glen was Wisconsin’s first designated state natural area, and has been a beautiful and ever popular summer destination. It’s only recently that hikers and snowshoers in large numbers have discovered the wonders of the glen in winter. Each year at the top of the glen water seepage, ice melt and the stream itself always make for interesting ice flows. If weather conditions are just right and the ice remains very cold and exposed it will turn amazing shades of blues and aqua greens. Amazing!

Now, explaining the blue color gets a bit “sciency”. Basically, the ice needs to be clear of snow, then thick, pure and compressed enough that light can penetrate the ice undisturbed. The ice then absorbs the colors on red end of the visible spectrum leaving the blue behind for you to see.  The purer (Less air bubbles.) and thicker the ice, the bluer it can appear.  The ice at Parfrey’s right now is pretty darned blue.. in the right light!

Iphone Panoramic Image of Parfrey's Glen Ice

Iphone Panoramic Image of Parfrey’s Glen Ice

As I said, the real trick is getting to the ice. The glen has been poorly managed for some time now and the trails to the most beautiful parts of Parfrey’s, including the ice flows, have not been repaired or maintained in any way. Near the end of a well worn walking, path you will be faced with two options, to the left you must boulder hop/climb up some 20 feet or so to get to the old, washed out overlook. There are holes, steps are missing, it’s treacherous and slippery.

In the Nook - Crawling over a small frozen fall

In the Nook – Crawling over a small frozen fall

The other option is to go right and belly crawl through a small nook on the frozen stream bed. (As long as the ice holds!) Once through the nook, you have to climb over a small frozen fall (above) then just navigate the ice out from under a ledge. If you can trust the ice, this is an awkward, but probably safer way to navigate. Either way, ice cleats on your shoes are highly recommended. I wouldn’t expect the stream to stay frozen more than a few days at this point. Either way, you’re “at your own risk” and we mean RISK.

On the other hand, the payoff is amazing!


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