Photo of the Week – February 7, 2014

When I woke up, the temperature was hovering around zero degrees F but there was almost no wind, so I decided to go for a sunrise prairie hike.  It was a beautiful morning, and there was a lot to see in the prairie, but I didn’t find much to photograph until I got down to the Platte River.  There, as I walked cautiously across the frozen surface of the river, I found a few small holes where flowing water was exposed…

Columns of ice along a patch of open water on the Platte River.  Hamilton County, Nebraska.

Columns of ice along a patch of open water on the Platte River. Hamilton County, Nebraska.

It looked like the splashing of the passing river by had created stalactites of ice around some of the uneven edges of the holes.  Over time, those stalactites had widened into wide-based columns that spanned the 3-4 inch gap between frozen surfaces.  Regardless of how it formed, it was sure attractive in the early morning sun.

A close up of the columns.

A close up of some of the columns.

The edges of the ice were rimmed by frost, as were some of the plants nearby.  Not that there was any need for the frivolous decoration – the ice was plenty attractive on its own.  Very carefully, I slid myself on my belly toward the edge of the ice hole until I heard the first small cracking sound.  That seemed like a good place to stop.  Then, lying on the frozen river and photographing ice, water, and frost, I thought about (as I often do) how glad I was that no one was around to watch me.

Frost-covered plants on a small island near the open water.

Frost-covered plants on a small sandbar near the open water.

Many thanks to those of you who have already taken Eliza’s survey of blog readers.  If you haven’t yet taken it, please consider helping her out.  You can find the survey here.  Thanks!

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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4 Responses to Photo of the Week – February 7, 2014

  1. Brodie says:

    Beautiful! especially the close-up. I half expected the columns to begin a graceful glide to the left. Thanks, Chris. (Always good to heed that small cracking sound. :-) )

  2. oakstreet1@cox.net says:

    Chris, some great shots.

    Rich

  3. glad you didn’t break through. Photos are stunning. Not sure it was worth risk, but maybe you know water depth was no problem there. You keep on inspiring me to get out more often with my camera. Today I was skiing our woods and there were more deer prints than ski tracks on my packed route.

  4. James McGee says:

    I tried to explain how this ice formed. I clicked on one of your photos to get a closer look when I had almost finished. Instead of opening a new browser, the photo showed up in this browser. I clicked the back button, but my comment was already gone. I do not feel like rewriting the whole comment. The main point was the ice columns in your photo formed by additional ice being accumulated at the bottom. This is different than icicles or stalactites which have the water drip down them from the top.

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