Many of us have memories of building snow forts or igloos as children. Some of us build them with our children today. In Eagle River, we’ve been building an ice castle since the 1920s.
Using thousands of 10-inch by 10-inch by 20-inch blocks of ice harvested from Silver Lake, dozens of volunteers led by the fire department build a castle along highway 45 near the railroad depot. The 60- to 70-pound blocks are arranged to construct various types of castles that reach 20 feet or taller.
While the process of collecting, cutting, transporting and arranging the ice has advanced throughout the decades, it’s still a tradition steeped in history. In fact, some of the equipment used by original builder C.H. Hanke used in the late 1920s is still used today.
Because the design of the castle changes every year, it’s extremely popular for locals and visitors to behold every January. Designs often include doors and windows, as well as accents like floodlights and trees near the walls of the castle.
Previous ice castles have been so immaculate that newlyweds have posed for wedding photos in front of the impressive regal structures.
The ice castle typically takes more than 700 hours of work by volunteers. To help support volunteers, local businesses donate money for the upkeep of equipment costs and in-kind support in the form of food and hot beverages like cocoa. It truly is a castle made by, and for the community.
If backyard igloos and snow forts are your thing, consider checking out our ice castle this winter by planning a trip to Eagle River. Start at EagleRiver.org for more information.