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Exploring the Ice Formations at Brukner Nature Center

Story & Photos by Matt Bayman

Although they can be found along almost any creek or river in cold environments during the right conditions, the Stillwater River at Brukner Nature Center always seems to have the best and most unusual ice formations.    


   The Stillwater Loop Trail at the nature center parallels the Stillwater River for several thousand feet. It is here along the banks of the river that, almost like clockwork each winter, nature creates some of the most amazing works of frozen art.    


   Formations, often created by melting and freezing water that runs over leaves, plants and tree branches along the river, can look like balls of water, giraffes and elephants marching in parade, frozen noses, hanging bats, and beans or peppers on a stalk, among other interesting shapes.    


   Some of the shapes seem to defy gravity, while others sometimes appear colorful due to the brown and orange pigmentation that leaks from the leaves inside the ice as they melt and freeze.    


   They are best viewed on the first or second day after freezing temperatures lift during the day, but still freeze at night (allowing for melting and refreezing), or directly after a good ice storm. They are fleeting, which makes them even more special to see.      


   As an added bonus, the creeks that run through Brukner Nature Center, including one found next to the Stillwater Loop Trail, transform into their own works of art in the winter. After freezing and thawing, the streams layer into what look like thick stacks of giant frozen snowflakes or leaves. If there’s melting water running over or between these layers, it’s even more striking to see.      


   Although it seems counterintuitive to visit Brukner Nature Center for a hike in the freezing cold or after an ice storm, these are in fact some of the very best and magical times to be there. Not only are the ice formations interesting to see, but also are the quiet winter landscapes that can be found throughout the nature center, especially after a good snow.    


   So, if you’re up for a winter adventure and seeing interesting things in nature, bundle up, drive and walk safely, and explore the banks of the Stillwater River and its tributaries at Brukner Nature Center, plus hiking trails, an interpretative center, an indoor bird-viewing vista, live animals and a restored log cabin, among other highlights.    There is a small fee to enter Brukner Nature Center. Plan your visit and view a map of the hiking trails at

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Click HERE to see other frozen beauty in Miami County and western Ohio.

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