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Harrington Beach State Park

A Wintertime Walk Along Harrington Beach

January 21, 2023  |  Topics: Places

Story and photos by Christel Maass

Determined to enjoy one of the first sunny days in a long snowless stretch of early winter, my husband and I headed to Harrington Beach State Park, which hugs the Lake Michigan shore near the northern tip of Ozaukee County. 

While trails elsewhere in the park were muddy with temperatures approaching forty degrees, we found ourselves strolling along the wide shoreline, enjoying the sun’s welcome rays and the gently lapping waves.  As we stepped carefully past thin shards and sheets of ice, and rivulets of water, we discovered nature’s intricate artwork of textures and designs on the sandy strand and rocky Niagara Escarpment.

Waves and wind piled delicate fragments of ice along the shore

Waves and wind piled delicate fragments of ice along the shore (above and below).

Icy sculptures transformed as water trickled underneath (above and below).

Meltwater created sand art (below).

An ephemeral stream emptying into Lake Michigan looked remarkably like an alligator’s back (below).

Ice, water, air bubbles, and a tiny touch of greenery resulted in a sandy mosaic with a floral motif (below). 

This “artwork” looked like it had been created by those who walked here generations before (above).  It was covered by a thin sheet of ice—like glass in a picture frame—moving, breaking into pieces (below).

It’s a beautiful scene, but the shore this winter day was littered with invasive zebra mussel shells (closeup below).  Not a good sign.  They do, however, crunch nicely underfoot and make a lovely tinkle when given a kick. 

zebra mussel shells

We enjoyed kicking off the new year with this walk on the beach, and since there’s still a long winter ahead, look forward to exploring more of nature’s seasonal works of art—especially on those rare sunny days. 

For more information about Harrington Beach, go to our Find-a-Park page.

Christel Maass, a Wisconsin Master Naturalist, loves a good reason to head outdoors in the wintertime.

4 thoughts on "A Wintertime Walk Along Harrington Beach"

  1. Richard r. Kania says:

    Nice photos of “nature art”! Glad you’re one of few to notice and appreciate such hidden gems (details).

  2. Ice imagery is quite stunning. Such a transformation the freezing weather makes.

  3. Howard J Caplan says:

    I’ve been going to Harrington Beach at least once a week for over a year. Great place to walk the dog and enjoy a range of scenic trails. Lake Michigan beach, including a designated dog beach, the Quarry Lake trail and several inland, wooded trails.
    Over the summer, I spoke with a couple of women who were visiting every Wisconsin State Park to walk all the trails. They commented that Harrington is one of Wisconsin’s best kept secrets, a real gem of a park.
    I thought about it but it didn’t really sink in until later. I must say, they were absolutely correct. It is a gem and with only six miles of trails and not too far from the larger and more popular Kohler-Andre State Park, Harrington is a best kept secret.
    The pics are great!
    Thank you!

  4. cheri briscoe says:

    Your knack for capturing simple nature designs so artfully is always appreciated. Thanks. cheri

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