Ice Dam

dsc00198I was astonished to see the height of the river yesterday afternoon on my walk. Rain had poured down all day with totals above two inches, breaking up the 8-10″ thick river ice. With the ground frozen, all that water sheeted off directly into the watershed. The grinding, backed up ice seen here is at least ten feet deep, a scary thing if any one or animal got too close and fell in.

Last summer, at the bend in the river at the top of the above photo, erosion toppled a large spruce tree into the river, essentially creating a dam. With debris flowing downriver trapped since then, it had become a formidable obstacle.

Below is a photo taken in October to give you an idea of just how high the water had risen. The flood came close to overflowing the left bank, but thankfully, didn’t crest it.

Around 11:00 pm, I heard the dam crack and give way– all that moving ice sounded like a giant glass tumbler of ice cubes, clinking together as the pieces were drawn downstream. Today, the river is all clear. Isn’t Nature amazing?

About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
This entry was posted in Field Notes, My Photos and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

117 Responses to Ice Dam

  1. neihtn2012 says:

    That is amazing! I hope the water was not a threat to you or anyone living around that dam.

  2. Alice Pratt says:

    So all that ice ended up crashing into and moving the fallen spruce tree? Where it might just block the river, further downstream? Amazing forces!

  3. kimberlyharding says:

    yes! Nature is amazing!

  4. cindy knoke says:

    WOW! The power of nature.

  5. Denzil says:

    Impressive before and after photos!

  6. Whoa!! That is powerful, Eliza!

  7. Catwoods says:

    Beautiful photos along with exciting natural stories!

  8. Treah says:

    Wow….scary! Did all that ice giving way do damage down stream? I’m glad you’re on the high side!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I haven’t checked down below, but I expect the banks are high enough and there wasn’t much in the way once the tree broke. More than once I’ve been glad our house is well uphill!

  9. Wow, amazing indeed! Glad you weren’t flooded out.

  10. Val Boyko says:

    Amazing and powerful! Thanks for sharing Eliza ❄️

  11. Joanna says:

    Wow! The power of water and ice is incredible, and sometimes scary! Our river didn’t break up this time, but all the snow came down off the back of the house, taking wires with it! We just got that fixed a couple hours ago!
    Is that Japanese knotweed along the river in the October picture?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      It was a bit unsettling, all that crushing ice, so I’m glad it broke eventually. Sorry you lost power, but glad they fixed it pronto!
      And yes, there are acres of J.knotweed here and spreading every year, esp. along the river. I’m convinced that 9 out of 10 plants here are invasive. 😦

  12. Rebecca says:

    That’s a lot of ice! What a beautiful area you live in!

  13. Murtagh's Meadow says:


  14. Kris P says:

    That ice dam looked a little treacherous. I’m glad Mother Nature took care of it!

  15. Tranature - quiet moments in nature says:

    Amazing how nature remedied the situation Eliza, so glad you’re safe from flooding 🙂💖🍀

  16. Robin says:

    Wow! Truly amazing. 🙂

  17. sandyjwhite says:

    Rivers here in the spring can sometimes toss gigantic chunks of ice aside as if Tinker Toys. It is indeed amazing how nature sets things right.

  18. Wow – amazing photos. Glad no one got in the way of that ice. Stay safe. 🙂

  19. Jet Eliot says:

    Excellent photos, Eliza, demonstrating the high and low of the river. All that ice is astonishing to see, almost not to be believed. Hearing the dam crack and the ice tumble in the night must’ve been unsettling. Glad you are okay.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Jet. I could barely believe my eyes myself. Wrapping my brain around just HOW MUCH ice and water was there blew my mind. I was just glad it posed little danger so long as we stayed away from it.
      Now that the temps are back to below freezing, I’m glad it all moved off rather that refreezing– that would have been a really big, worrisome mess!

  20. Karen Lang says:

    Nature is a mystery and always amazes me too Eliza. Beautiful captures ☃

  21. Peter Herpst says:

    Amazing indeed. What a treat for you to hear and see it in person.

  22. Vicki says:

    An amazing sight. Glad to hear there are no houses in close proximity.
    Thanks for sharing, Eliza.

  23. Anne says:

    Scenes such as this are totally out of my experience – and all the more awesome for that. I have really enjoyed reading about this.

  24. albert says:

    Yes, amazing. Mysterious. Wonder-full.

  25. An excellent description of the sounds

  26. WOW, amazing and incredible, Eliza!

  27. Fine outcome. Beautiful shots too!

  28. Widdershins says:

    I could spend hours watching that. 🙂 … She is indeed, awesome. 😀

  29. arlingwoman says:

    Ice floes are so amazing–the sight and the different sounds. When I was a kid, we used to jump on the floes on our creek (foolish children). I can still hear that creaking noise. Yours, on a river, would have been a major sight to see!

  30. naturebackin says:

    Such drama to see and hear. What incredible and intimidating power. Your photos convey that well.

  31. spanishwoods says:

    Yes, absolutely amazing….

  32. Wowsah, that must have been something to see and hear!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Indeed it was. I walked down today and the banks are littered with huge 12″ thick slabs of ice, some pressed into nearly vertical walls 6′ tall. The force of water gets my respect!

  33. bittster says:

    Last winter there were some large ice dams along the Susquehanna, pushing up ice all along the road. Luckily there was little flooding, but even going into spring there were still piles of ice slowly melting here and there.
    Your iced up river is exciting, but I think I prefer your frozen creek!

  34. Adele Brand says:

    Wow, that is an amazing sight! Ice provides such varied beauty and drama.

  35. Sagittarius Viking says:

    Nature is fascinating! Your writing makes your photos even more intersting. Great post! I hope your weekend is amazing ❤

  36. Sartenada says:

    I love the first photo very much. Awesome.

    Happy new week!

  37. Cathy says:

    Incredible. To think of all that energy in just water and ice makes me at awe with the power of the natural elements! I heard a big freeze is due in North America, so hope you have plenty of firewood and are keeping your fire going Eliza!

  38. Joanne says:

    Nature is amazing indeed! And I love that I can share your ice dam experience from my home in sub-tropical Australia. 🙂

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, Joanne. I’m sure your temps are much more pleasant right now!

      • Joanne says:

        Hmm, if you don’t mind a range of 22C – 32C every day, with humidity. I’m getting bored with the same every day. I shouldn’t complain though, we heard on our news tonight that Wisconsin had minus-something-ridiculous today. I hope the big chill isn’t bothering you too badly, Eliza. xx

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Not as risky to be outside as the Midwest states, but our windchill is still around -20F. Wicked cold! They advise not more than a half hour exposure at a time.

      • Joanne says:

        My goodness! We heard reports of frostbite on our news.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Serious cold. My favorite demonstration is when they throw boiling water in the air and it freezes before hitting the ground, shattering like glass. Astounding!

      • Joanne says:

        Oh, we saw that here on TV! I loved watching people making frozen sprays of ice out of boiling water. To me, that was mind-boggling! That level of cold simply doesn’t exist anywhere in Australia. 🙂

      • Eliza Waters says:

        You’re lucky for that – that level of cold is life-threatening and many die from exposure. Serious business!

      • Joanne says:

        I liked your comment, then realised there was nothing to like about the thought of people dying from exposure! (It was an acknowledgement that I’d seen your reply actually. 🙂 )But you’re right, extreme weather conditions are serious business. I know people have lost their lives in Australia due to extreme heat and dehydration. And my poor garden suffers every summer as well. I’ve lost a couple of plants again this year. Oh for a perfect world, where the temperatures ranges from safe lows up to safe highs!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Only in Hawaii, I think! 😉

  39. nutsfortreasure says:

    Wow! I fear I will also have more issues on this river which is now flooded and full of ice. 😦 Makes for wonderful photos though thanks for sharing.

  40. Stunning photos of the ice! In the silence of winter the sounds of ice moving and cracking has always surprised me and this must have been an amazing sound and sight.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you! Most of the year, we hear the white noise of flowing water, except when it gets really cold and the stream and river ice over. This was totally amazing, both in sight and sound.

  41. Jane Lurie says:

    That is amazing, Eliza. Nice that you provided comparison photos. Nature is a wonder.

  42. Maria says:

    Amazing, the difference, thanks for that.

  43. Kathy Sturr says:

    Wow, wow, wow! Scary stuff. Soon it’ll be bubbling Spring!

  44. Noellie says:

    wow that is amazing. I posted some of our waterways too. nature is amzing. thanks for sharing.

  45. Gosh Eliza, I’ve never seen anything like that. That must have been some sound when it started to move.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      It was a crunching, grinding and jostling sound that was unmistakable – letting go in a rush. While ice dams frequently happen around bridge abutments, this was the first we’ve had on our river due to the fallen tree.

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