Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Nearly anytime spent on the stream is special but there are many “extra” special times. Sunrise, Twilight, a moonlit night, the roar of a flood but two events on the creek are always magical to me when the stream is freezing and when it is opening up. Some folks call this ice up and ice out. 

Sometimes ice out is triggered by a warm rain. Combined with a heavy snow melt the release of energy can really be dramatic. If thick ice is on the stream, huge plates of ice get pushed up on the shore, scouring the banks and gashing big chunks of bark off of trees. Some plates melt on the shore others get broken apart into smaller pieces and float downstream. Ice jams often form at stream bends creating dams which can cause rapid fluctuations in water levels.

When temperatures gradually warm however ice out can be relatively gentle.  Right now we are enjoying a slow thaw in the valley and the creek is coming alive after several weeks of bitterly cold temperatures. Generally, the ripples are the last places to close up and the first ones to open. These rivulets within the frozen stream are like windows into the flowing water below the ice. The water is clear, the gravel is bright. It is a beautiful thing to behold as the late winter steelhead season begins.