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Landscape: Ice Kaliedoscope

Posted by Phil Duggan,
North Country explorer from Amherst, New York
February 6, 2013

Habitat Description: Freshwater river, eddy below waterfall (40 foot drop), shore of a hardwood forest.

Eddies are the fascinating phenomena of moving water that are responsible for ice patterns such as the one depicted here. Eddies are caused by an immovable object in a waterway, such as a rock, that the water must flow around to keep moving. Behind the object, there is a vacuum that the water rushes to fill, and thus you actually sometimes see eddy currents moving upstream, opposite of the mighty river! In the case of this eddy at Lampson Falls, the circular movement of the water likely took a large sheet of river ice and, through rotation, broke it into small, polished, rounded pieces over time. As for the bands of ice on the trees, this also has to do with the flow of the river: as water levels changed and overflowed onto the shore, ice likely formed at that level and remained on the trunks even after the water receded.

As a whitewater enthusiast, I have always found the movements of rivers to be complex and admittedly counter-intuitive. In the warmer seasons, when you can barely catch these swirls by the glint of the sunlight off of the water, it can be hard to discern their patterns. However, with the ice, this winter photo provides a very clear representation of how these river forces are always at work.