Wednesday, January 13, 2010
An Icy Odyssey Along the Hudson
After my otter adventure yesterday, I stopped by the boat launch below Spier Falls on the chance I might see eagles feeding in the open water there. But guess what? No open water! The river was frozen all the way across -- an unusual occurrence here where the current runs swift.
Well, I thought, if the Hudson is frozen here, I'll bet the "frazil" ice is forming up north of Warrensburg. This is a special kind of fluid ice that forms where the water is turbulent. When it collects and dams up the river's flow, the flooding water lifts the ice and deposits it along the banks, creating a riverside grassland called the Ice Meadows. Time to go check it out. So I followed the river north about 30 miles to a place called The Glen, where I could stand out on a bridge and take the photos below. (These are all color photos, but today was a very gray day!)
Here's the view looking upstream. You can see that a channel of water still runs freely, while the frazil ice is beginning to pile up along the shores.
Here's a view looking straight down from the bridge, showing the fluid course of the ice itself.
This view looks downstream from the bridge to where the river begins to widen.
Heading south, the road runs close to the river where the ice spreads out to create the Ice Meadows. By late winter, the ice deposits here can be eight to ten feet thick, their weight suppressing the growth of tall trees and creating a distinctive habitat for many unusual plants, including rare species found in few other places.
I took a detour to Hadley on my way home. Between Hadley and Lake Luzerne, the Hudson drops through a narrow gorge at a place called Rockwell Falls. The river was running freely here today.
At Hadley, the Sacandaga River joins the Hudson, coursing with turbulent vigor under the historic Bow Bridge.
Below Hadley a few miles is the town of Corinth. The Hudson here was barely covered with thin sheets of moving ice.
By the time I reached the Hudson again where the river takes a sharp turn just above Spier Falls at Moreau, the ice was once again solidly frozen all the way across. The ice fishermen should be happy, but the eagles will have fewer places to fish for a while.
At least there's still open water for some distance below the dam. But every day the river changes. What's frozen today could be open tomorrow, and vice versa. I'm heading to Westchester County tomorrow to care for my grandkids for a few days, planning to bring them back here for the weekend. My hope is to bring them hiking along the river. Can't wait to see what the ice is up to by then.