Montana Outdoors

December 16, 2008

Ice garden

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — Tags: — montucky @ 7:25 pm

Today I visited the area of beaver activity about which I posted a few days ago to see how the severe cold that has settled in has changed the ice. What I found was a complete surprise!

The water in the vicinity of the beaver’s activities has frozen into ice so thick that I was able to jump on it: that I expected. What I didn’t expect was what has appeared on the surface.

This photo shows where the little stream enters the river. Notice the lumpy appearance of the ice in the foreground. There is 2 to 5 feet of water beneath that ice.

Creek and river ice

This photo provides a little closer look at those lumps which at first glance look a little like big spiders, at second glance, like white ferns growing there.

Pond Ice

The rest of the photos are close-ups of individual lumps, which are two to four inches across and at most a half inch in height. When I touched several very gently with my fingertip, they disintegrated completely into “ice dust”, resembling fine snowflakes. I could feel no resistance to my touch and there was no organic material inside them, just very, very fine ice crystals.

Ice figure

Ice figure

Ice figure

Ice figure

Ice figure

Ice figure

Ice figure

Ice figure


  1. It really is anice garden! I’ve never seen such a thing – gorgeous stuff.


    Comment by Bo — December 16, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

  2. I’ve not seen it before either, Bo (or maybe not noticed). I had to destroy some to convince myself they weren’t frozen plants.


    Comment by montucky — December 16, 2008 @ 7:48 pm

  3. Absolutely beautiful photos! What magic there is in nature!


    Comment by Maureen — December 16, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  4. There is indeed magic out there, Maureen, just waiting to be seen! I’m constantly surprised and thrilled by what I come across.


    Comment by montucky — December 16, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  5. Wow! I’m so glad you got pictures of this! Now I want snow and ice here! (This part of extreme S and largely E Kansas hardly gets snow. Ice, sometimes, but it is melted by noon usually. *sigh*)


    Comment by katkmeanders — December 17, 2008 @ 9:30 am

  6. I was lucky to get those photos yesterday, Katk! It’s snowing today and they are all gone now.

    We’d be happy to share some of the ice with you. It was -10° again last night so we got some more. The river is full of ice chunks floating down and in one place just upstream a ways it has frozen nearly across.


    Comment by montucky — December 17, 2008 @ 10:12 am

  7. Wow!! That’s *so* pretty! I’ve never seen anything like that. I’m *so* glad you got pictures of that.

    The thinky part of me is incredibly curious to know how they formed but most of me is just going “wow, how cool!”

    Thank you so much for sharing! (I pointed my mum in this direction too.)


    Comment by gradschoolsara — December 17, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  8. Now here is something we seldom see in the South!



    Comment by knightofswords — December 17, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  9. How beautiful!


    Comment by Patia — December 17, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

  10. I have never seen anything like that in all my wanderings out in nature. Amazing! I’m so glad you got those photos!


    Comment by Cedar — December 17, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

  11. Sara,

    I’m glad that I stumbled onto them yesterday too. I’ve never seen anything like them before, and they’re gone today. They create al kinds of interesting thoughts and questions about how they form, don’t they! Now we have something else to be on the lookout for during the rest of winter!


    Comment by montucky — December 17, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  12. Malcolm,

    No, I don’t think you get as many ice experiences as we do. Sometimes (especially when it’s waaaay below zero) I think I would like it that way, but on days like today was (warm – about 10° – a light snow falling, no wind).. I really enjoy having winter!


    Comment by montucky — December 17, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  13. They sure are, Patia! I only wish I were that creative!


    Comment by montucky — December 17, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  14. Those are some serious hoar frost crystals!


    Comment by thaddeusmt — December 17, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  15. I haven’t either, Cedar. What a pleasant surprise they were! I’ve said so many times, and have to keep reminding myself, there are so many things to be seen out in the natural world if we only get out to see them. I’m beginning to act on that more and more, and nearly every time I find a reward in doing it.


    Comment by montucky — December 17, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

  16. Thanks for that comment, thaddeusmt! I hadn’t thought about hoarfrost, but come to think of it, the conditions were right for it. I still wonder how they form, why in those patterns and why in little lumps or piles on the open ice.


    Comment by montucky — December 17, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  17. I was driving along the Clark Fork out toward Milltown today and noticed that up here the river’s frozen all the way across.

    On Saturday (if the weather’s at all decent for getting out) I might spend some time driving along the river and seeing where it stops being frozen solid, since you mention ice chunks. I’m kind of curious about that now. (Though it might be an easily answered question, because I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t warmer going through Missoula.)


    Comment by gradschoolsara — December 18, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

  18. I have never seen such intricate ice crystals. Amazing.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — December 18, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  19. Sara,

    The ice chunks that we see here come from a variety of sources from both the Clark Fork and the Flathead rivers. Ice forms from the shoreline outward and sometimes the current will break pieces off and they float on down. The Flathead freezes across up in the Perma area and then chunks float down to the canyon about 5 miles from Paradise where they form a big ice dam. As that breaks ups, the chunks also come right down the Clark Fork.


    Comment by montucky — December 18, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  20. I’ve seen varieties of hoarfrost, but never anything of the nature of these, Scienceguy.


    Comment by montucky — December 18, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  21. Beautiful ice crystals. Amazing, aren’t they? Fragile and each with its own special design. Yes, you were lucky to get these. I’ll keep this in mind to be alert when out and about in the freezing cold. And called hoarfrost? Interesting… I learn something new every day. Lovely captures, montucky. 🙂


    Comment by Anna Surface — December 19, 2008 @ 8:44 am

  22. I keep learning too, Anna, and see many new things every season, but this one is going to haunt me for awhile.


    Comment by montucky — December 19, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  23. these are gorgeous! thanks for sharing these little treasures with us!


    Comment by silken — December 19, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  24. More of nature’s artwork, Silken. I started loving frost patterns when I was a very small child, but these are completely different.


    Comment by montucky — December 19, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  25. Wow, I’m breathing deeply…what a find, what a virtual miracle…thanks so much for sharing these with people who will never see anythings so fragile and intricately beautiful.


    Comment by Pictoscribe — December 20, 2008 @ 1:47 am

  26. Pictoscribe,

    It was just pure luck to find them. They formed on clear ice and were destroyed the next day by a snowfall. I’m glad I happened along at the right time!

    Thanks for the visit!


    Comment by montucky — December 20, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  27. Simply divine!


    Comment by Tabbie — December 23, 2008 @ 2:22 am

  28. Terry, these little tufts of crystalline ice are just EXQUISITE! I haven’t visited your blog in such a long time and I so enjoy the landscape of your world! Blessings to you, Sandy


    Comment by myinneredge — January 21, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  29. I thought they were pretty special too, Sandy! Thanks for visiting again!


    Comment by montucky — January 21, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

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