Fall color and leaf drop might seem like nature’s final curtain call before seeds sprout in spring. But one of the natural winter changes that happen here on the Northern Plains by the Missouri River for all to see involves the water itself.
The Missouri River here is dammed and enlarged to a lake more than a mile across. This photo in late October shows the South Dakota shore and faces south to Nebraska.
Geese and other waterfowl still gather on the lake in mid-December, and some other birds slowly migrate south.
This year the river begins to freeze by early January. Some are ice fishing now on smaller bodies of water with less flow that freeze sooner. Some years the freezing starts in early December.
Weather and other conditions impact the water’s appearance along the shore as it turns solid.
Once the process begins a day or so later, the layer of ice thickens several inches across the lake.
As the water expands when it freezes, ice is pushed up onto the shore, as if the waves froze.
On a silent, cold winter day, the river mumbles as you walk along the shore. Flow continues south under the ice, and sounds echo and boom. At this location, a crack in the ice has formed and extends across the lake, out of sight. Shifting and river talk continue until temperatures warm in late winter and water returns to a liquid for all to see.
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