Sea Kayaking the ice on Lake Michigan Jan 2010

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The ice is beginning to get interesting along the shore of Lake Michigan. We have a thaw on that might allow kayakers to get out and see the ice. I am thinking of heading out during the day on Saturday.

Some serious considerations for safety must be taken into account if you would like to try this. The ice piles as high as 30 feet sometimes, so it is good to keep away from it in the event it calves and drops into the water. Also Once out on the water, there is no way off the water in the event of an emergency. It is the same as paddling cliffs with the added danger that these cliffs may fall on you.
You must be prepared for cold water immersion and be able to perform deep water rescues. A self rescue is a must when traveling alone.

  1. A kayak with two bulkheads in the event of rescue
  2. Some kind of signaling device, marine radio, cell-phone in waterproof case. A whistle, signal mirror and flares would also be a good idea.
  3. Proper cold water immersion wear, the minimum would be a wet suit, paddle jacket, neoprene booties and gloves, warm hat. Obviously a drysuit is preferable.
  4. Lifejacket (duh)
  5. Drybag with dry, warm clothes including a spare hat, gloves, and socks. Fleece or wool clothing is preferable.
  6. Tow belt, in the event an exit off the ice involves getting out of the boat.
  7. Hot water, or hot drink in a thermos

Here’s a slideshow of photographs from a couple of different ice paddles on Lake Michigan in 2009.

Icepaddle Saugatuck Jan 03 2009


  1. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. Jealous! Be safe.

  3. I just posted a winter kayaking article on my site, too. Then I saw yours. Those ice formations are really wild. We seldom get anything like that on our part of Lake Superior. I'd love to paddle past some of that stuff.