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Sentinel Butte, North Dakota

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ice Jam on the Yellowstone

Each spring it is always interesting to guess just when the various rivers and creeks in our area "break up". Break up is when the ice covering the river cracks, breaks and begins to move.  We live closest to the Little Missouri River as it runs near Medora, North Dakota. This year, the break up was not too spectacular and flooding has been minimal compared to the past two years.

 We live about 45miles from the Yellowstone River west of us in Montana. A week ago  we made a trip to Billings, Montana hauling cattle for a friend.  This enabled us to get a  good look at the Yellowstone as it makes it way thru Glendive, Fallon, Terry, Miles City and Billings. There was a big ice jam at Glendive on our way west. Further west the river had places were it had broken up and at Billings it was open and running. The Powder River was pretty much broken up and moving.

Coming back the next day, we encountered a massive jam at Fallon, Montana. The interstate crosses the river here and as we crossed over the bridge it was really exciting and interesting to see the huge thick chunks of ice up so close. They couldn't have been more than 10-15 from the bottom of the bridge in places. Some were bigger than cars, several feet thick. Some were coated with dark colored soil and the whole landscape of the river looked like a huge field of jagged rocks. My camera was buried in the backseat of the truck, so I didn't get shots of it.

By the time we got to Glendive, I had my camera ready to shoot what was happening there! The Yellowstone was overflowing, flooding the areas surrounding it for a great distance. The area that was closest to the river and interstate was primarily hayfields and low lying pasture, no houses or businesses to be affected.

I have always thought it would be so interesting to be present when the ice breaks and begins to move. It has to be a noisy process, I think. It amazes me to think of the sheer mass of those huge ice chunks as they move on the river. Every year we all anxiously await the break up of the rivers and creeks around here. It makes spring seem just that much closer!

Flooding on the Yellowstone River March 17 at Glendive, Montana.

Part of ice jam on Yellowstone River west of Terry, Montana.

Yellowstone broken up and starting to run west of Miles City, MT.


gtyyup said...

Very interesting stuff!! Glad you got your camera out and shared!

Crystal said...

We live about 12 miles from the Red Deer River and I have also always wanted to be there when it breaks up. Our neighbors say it it horribly loud.

Shirley said...

Hopefully that will be the extent of the flooding.I think Alberta is going to have some flooding this year because of the heavy snows they have been getting.

Sarah said...

always amazes me! And also amazes me that one river or creek will have a huge ice jam, but another near by will break up and flow freely, and then the next year it could be opposite. I too would love to watch the process, but I would think it would be a slow event. Maybe not though. I've lived near Billings 3 winters now, and just near the Yellowstone. I've never seen it jammed up. It seems to keep flowing smoothly there, but I have seen it get quite high. I assume from ice jams up stream, or perhaps snow melt from the mountains.