Montana Outdoors

December 11, 2009

Flathead winter

Filed under: cold, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Winter — montucky @ 10:10 pm

This morning it was evident that the flow of ice cakes down the Clark Fork had diminished considerably. The reason for that had to be that ice jams were forming some twenty miles upstream on the Flathead and I drove up there just to see it. When the river gets like that it’s a graphic portrayal of cold!

Flathead River ice

The shiny part of the river is not open water, it’s clear ice. Because it is frozen completely across, just a mile or so upstream as ice cakes float down and meet the solid ice, they begin to pile up and form an ice jam.

_Flathead River ice

Just for perspective. At this point the river is about a hundred yards across.

Flathead River ice

This is about the middle of a three-mile stretch of a river of ice.

Flathead River ice



  1. OH my goodness. Now That is COLD! I’ve never seen such a thing. Chunky ice in a river like that! Wow! Amazing. Thanks for sharing!


    Comment by Stacey - Addicted to The Click — December 12, 2009 @ 1:47 am

    • Our rivers all have ice to a certain extent in winter, but the chunks that pile up are pretty dramatic along this particular section. I always love to see it.


      Comment by montucky — December 12, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

  2. I’ve never seen such a thing, either! Probably never will 🙂 It certainly is a graphic portrayal of cold!


    Comment by Candace — December 12, 2009 @ 9:36 am

    • I wish you could see this, but I’d bet just a few minutes would be enough!


      Comment by montucky — December 12, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

      • I keep meaning to ask, how long did you live in AZ and wasn’t it hard to adapt to a much colder climate after living here? I know that if I go back to the midwest in the winter (which I try to avoid, at all costs), I find it far more unpleasant than I did when I lived there. You know how people here always say that our “blood gets thinner.” Not a medical fact, I’m sure, but it certainly does change your idea of what cold is. I think it’s icky when it hits the 40s here.


        Comment by Candace — December 13, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

        • We moved from Denver to Tempe in 1973, then to Chandler, then to Queen Creek and moved back here in 1993. My wife was from Denver, but I was born in Missoula (about 80 miles from where we now live).

          We loved living in the Valley of the Sun for many years, but then it became just too populated and we really tired of the extreme summer heat. Of all things, we moved to Montana in the middle of December.

          We enjoy having the four distinct seasons, although we could do without a couple of winter months, but it’s so wonderful to be away from the city. It’s very relaxed, peaceful, and low-key here and we would never go back to a populated area.


          Comment by montucky — December 13, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  3. A great opportunity for ice hockey?


    Comment by Chad — December 12, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    • Not on the rivers, but there are ponds around where the kids still play. When I was a kid, everyone carried hockey sticks and pucks in thir trunks.


      Comment by montucky — December 12, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  4. Impressive sight. Jeep looks cleaner than expected.



    Comment by knightofswords — December 12, 2009 @ 10:06 am

    • As I know you certainly understand, the Jeep being clean is completely incidental. This time the result of a heavy rain a couple months ago.


      Comment by montucky — December 12, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  5. Well, you’ve got your cold, but still no snow? We had enough to share, but sorry it doesn’t quite work out that way.

    I love rivers in the winter. I love to head west to the Mississippi to see the bald eagles in their winter grounds, usually early January is a good time. Something about the River/Eagle combo that inspires, it’s very majestic.

    And this year, with a proper telephoto, I hope to get a few good photographs out of the bunch I’m sure to take! 🙂


    Comment by Bo Mackison — December 12, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    • We’re supposed to get six inches of snow this weekend and up to a couple of feet in the high country. It will be welcome, although I don’t relish the accidents that usually accompany it.

      We usually have a few eagles that winter here but I have not had good luck in photographing them. I hope you do and I’ll look forward to your photos.


      Comment by montucky — December 12, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  6. I remember there was a huge thaw in February near where I live. There is a fast flowing creek that was frozen over during the winter. On that day, chunks the ice of small cars were rushing past at nearly rapids-like speeds. It was scary, yet amazing, to watch.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — December 12, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    • Oops, meant to say chunks of ice the size of small cars…


      Comment by scienceguy288 — December 12, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

      • Seeing the ice pile up and then move is awesome and a real treat. Lots of force there!


        Comment by montucky — December 12, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  7. wow! what beautiful, but cold, shots! I cannot even imagine these scenes!!


    Comment by silken — December 13, 2009 @ 7:44 am

    • Interesting the temperature variations there are within the lower 48, isn’t it! And this isn’t the coldest state by far.


      Comment by montucky — December 13, 2009 @ 9:56 am

  8. We get ice jams in the spring here on the AuSable River where there are little islands in the middle that cause jams during breakup. That then results in flooding of some of the low land areas in the town closeby.


    Comment by Cedar — December 14, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    • This particular of the Flathead has never that I know of had flooding due to the ice, but other rivers in Montana have had, and sometimes they even required blasting to get rid of the jams.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  9. I know that stretch of river! Have a photo where you said the water was high when I took it. Nice winter shots! Love them! Good work.


    Comment by pilgrim30 — December 23, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

    • I always look forward to the ice through there. That stretch is pretty all times of year though.


      Comment by montucky — December 23, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

  10. Just looking at that icy river makes me cold. Burrr, I don’t know how people can survive those bitter northern winters. You guys do have some beautiful landscapes though, I’ll give you that.


    Comment by orples — November 6, 2014 @ 9:56 am

    • We do have some extremes, but I love the contrasts of the four seasons and we have learned how to handle the temperatures. I think as many play outside in winter as in summer.


      Comment by montucky — November 6, 2014 @ 10:22 am

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