The river full of frazil gets sluggish when there are islands in the middle or sharp curves. Eventually the frazil clogs and covers the whole width of the river a foot or so thick. Shoving from the tons of frazil still coming down the river forces big coagulated sections to wedge their way farther in to the cover, thickening it. This is the fun time to watch as all kinds of interesting things can happen.

What comes next is critical to the "ice meadow" shores having ten foot deep banks of frazil into April some places. The frazil floating down the river ducks under the cover and gets deposited on it, forming "hanging dams", unique formations which would look like pointed teeth in river cross-section. These dams block the river currents, cause the water level to rise several feet and float the saturated frazil out over the sloping shores. Sooner or later the hanging dams break and the water level goes down, leaving the frazil high, drained and beautifully white. This process can happen a few times before the cover gets frozen across the river and the water level stays below the cover. Unlike when a warm rain in late spring raises the water level quickly causing dangerous ice jams, damming from hanging dams is safe to watch from a bridge or high bank. Usually the frazil deposits on shore will stay in place until they melt in spring.

Ice engineers use the term "anchor ice" for the ice that in very cold weather covers the bottom of the river in shallow areas. (Odd, it always floats in your drink, right?) You will often see a greenish color under the water halfway between North Creek and North River. It turns out that the frazil, which in turbulent water tumbles around in the river water top to bottom, hits the rocks and sticks to them if they are cold enough. When the sun warms the anchor ice enough later in the day (and it will be sunny), it releases its hold and floats down the river, sometimes carrying gravel and even rocks with it. Read Caperton Tissot's new book, "Ice", about the history, natural and otherwise, of ice for more of my ideas about frazil.

This year much of the river between North Creek and The Glen has snow-covered sheet ice covering it instead of being open. As no frazil can be made if the water is not open to the air, unless we have a major melt which opens the river the frazil watching may be over this year.

On cold nights frazil collects in eddies below boulders and along the shore making long points and beaver tails. Ridges of frazil parallel to the shore also form. How are they made? They appear overnight and I've never caught them being made.

Vote on this Story by clicking on the Icon


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment