Every year, if the weather conditions are just right, a magical scene appears on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Freezing temperatures and strong winds often combine in January to form incredible miniature sand sculptures, similar to the rocky hoodoos found throughout the world. Rock hoodoos, like the ones that soar 50 feet into the air in Utah, are formed over millions of years of erosion. They have stood tall for eons, but sand hoodoos last just a few hours before disappearing.
These tiny sculptures are formed on only the coldest, windiest beaches. Each natural masterpiece stands between 3 and 15 inches tall and is as unique as a snowflake.
Some resemble little toadstools, while others are said to resemble chess pieces. The result is a tiny forest of miniature sand hoodoos that appears as suddenly as it disappears mere hours later.
Shaun Tvetmarken of Saint Joseph, Michigan, is a photographer who shoots local landscape and wildlife. He happened upon a tiny city made of sand hoodoos on a beach on the southwestern corner of Lake Michigan in Tiscornia Park one day, and the photos he took are stunning!
St. Joseph is about 80 miles from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the winter weather normally provides optimal conditions for sand hoodoos to form. On the day Shaun arrived to take pictures, the wind was whipping at about 40 mph!
As the sun came up, temperatures rose and the sand began to warm. Soon the warmer weather melted the ice inside the wet sand, turning nature’s handiwork back into plain grains of sand before his very eyes.
Sand hoodoos form in other parts of the world as well, including along the coast of the Pacific Northwest and in northern Europe! It’s a shame these spectacular structures don’t last longer, but we’re grateful for nature photographers like Shaun, who capture this phenomenon forever.
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