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For those of us who live so close to the river, it seems the river talks to us in its own language. It doesn’t use words to speak to us, but events that communicate to us, all the same.  Such is all natures language, and the best story ever told, for those who choose to look and listen. And this time  of year the river reveals a message written in the beauty of what colder weather has to offer.

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When air temps get cold enough to freeze water, ice begins to form in variable patterns and dimensions.  Eskimos and people who live with natures extremes have developed acute appreciation of this natural communication with the elements.  They have advanced knowledge and have come to recognize many forms and meaning of ice and snow, that those who live removed from such events, have lost or never had. Each condition of a snow flake or ice crystal can mean different things. Survival depends on such recognitions, to know when it is safe to travel or not over rivers during winter months.

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Wish I had possession of such knowledge, but don’t. But I do have appreciation for at least some simple events the river throws our way this time of year. A couple of things, come to mind, anchor ice and rosettes.  Some of the shallow shoals of the river bed get ice forming on the very bottom of the river, before ever freezing over the top of it. Why? Naturally, it is colder in those areas in order to freeze, but why there, and not somewhere else of similar dimensions?  Amount of shade in those areas? Hard to know, but interesting to see.

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The Salmon River drains a huge expanse of geology and therefore is a big river, in itself.  That means lots of pools, in this pool and drop type river, that are 50-60 feet deep in many places.  So only the few areas that are less than 5 feet deep, in the form of shoals and tail-outs, get the anchor ice. Although, the deeper sections between rapids sometimes freeze over entirely, with rapids getting travertine like formations that dam up water into bowl like fountains  to make  wonderful eye candy.

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In the bigger eddies with the right morphology, ice rosettes form. These are round islands of ice that are formed and trapped by the eddy that has created it. Normally, ice fingers extending out from various shorelines serve as barriers to capture downstream chunks of ice as they float downriver. These chunks then get caught in the middle of the eddy, and collectively get larger as more ice joins the slow spinning circle. Eventually the round motion causes a round circle of ice that gets so big that it barely remains separated by surrounding shoreline or mainstream ice blankets.

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ICE CIRCLE

Of course, sometimes the rosette joins at the edges and disappears as it becomes one with the entire blanket of ice created by extreme conditions that last for a longer time spell. So it is at the edges, of formation or melting that ice rosettes appear or disappear. It takes a mix of spin and cold to keep them alive as rosettes and the natural event that speaks to us in the winter. Thank you river.

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