30 April 2009


Many a person in Alaska will try and tell you that break-up is not really about rivers but about that time of year when a couple who has been keeping each other warm through the winter break off their relationship. But really, it does have to do with break-up of ice on the rivers (even if the latter is also true). I'm kicking myself for not grabbing my camera when I took the Disreputable Dog on his evening walk to the river where we witnessed break-up.

Tidal ice along the ocean in Los Anchorage

Rivers in Alaska have long been important transportation routes. In the winter they are highways for sled dog teams, snowmachines, and skis. In the summer boats of all types go up and down them. But during break-up and freeze-up all traffic stops. Predicting break-up has long been a pastime of locals and their is at least one break-up that is akin to our state lottery.

Having found that my new residence is a short walk from the mighty River that Brings the Highest Price for Wild Salmon, the D. Dog and go there twice daily. I love these huge, glacially fed, silty rivers (ok, I'll admit it, there isn't really any river type I don't love). Just standing on the banks makes me feel like I'm out in the field. The other day we had stopped in the early morning sun to look out on a still mostly frozen scene with a few leads of water. When we arrived on the banks in the afternoon we were just in time to see it all break up and wash out.

We sat in the sand on a high bank while the ice roared and crashed and moaned, while huge car sized chunks of ice floated by, submerging occasionally and then creating huge sprays as they lunged upward again like whales breaching. Occasionally a berg would strand temporarily on the edge of the river until enough of its brethren piled up behind it and forced it back out into the stream. The river was chock-a-block full of ice, it looked like the surface of a slurpee, churned pieces of ice streaked with sediment layers of grime and a huge variety of freezing ice patterns rushed by. The sound of it was awe inspiring- roaring, rushing, seething, spraying, sucking. I can't really describe it accurately. Huge blocks got torn from the banks creating their own current and sending muddy water skyward. And after sitting there for maybe 45 minutes all of the ice had passed us. Suddenly there was an open river with a few small pieces of ice still clinging to it's banks. Looking down river we could just discern the rush of ice as it headed for the open ocean.


  1. How AWESOME for you to see that!!! I am so envious...

  2. man, i've missed you. sorry for being so distant, i want you to know that your constant support has meant a great deal.

    when you get tired of being cold, come south and visit.


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