Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Winter Adventures at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park

When most of us imagine winter ice, we conjure up mental images of skating rinks and icicles. But did you know that there is a lot of variety in winter water formations?

From frozen waterfalls to ice volcanoes, winter water is a sight to behold:

winter waterfalls

We start with the main attraction. Everyone loves waterfalls, but we don’t always stop to imagine how they change with the seasons.

For example, at 40m high, Kakabeka Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Ontario, and it sure looks great when all that water freezes!

Kakabeka fallsKakabeka Falls Provincial Park

How about a before and after? Ragged Falls certainly looks different under a blanket of snow.

Ragged Falls summer winterOxtongue River – Ragged Falls Provincial Park

And watch the winter transformations of these three Lake Superior Provincial Park waterfalls!

Agawa Falls and Lake SuperiorAgawa Falls – summer
Agawa Falls - winterAgawa Falls – winter
Up Creek - summerUp Creek Falls – Summer
Up Falls Creek - WinterUp Creek Falls – Winter
Sand river - summersand river – summer
Sand river - wintersand river – winter

Groundwater “falls”

Groundwater seepage occurs year-round in the landscape and, boy, can it be spectacular on winter cliffs!

Snowshoes looking at the ice formation.Lake Kakakise, Killarney Provincial Park

In ice-free seasons, gravity causes seeping groundwater to flow discreetly down the rocks, but in winter, the groundwater freezes as it flows and accumulates, forming an icefall that “grows” downslope.

Fusion “falls”

ice fallsAlgonquin Provincial Park

Melted snow and ice drip onto the side of the rock cut and eventually refreeze. Like an icicle, it gets bigger and bigger until it becomes huge.

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Shelf ice

An ice shelf appears along the coast. It is formed by waves that push layer after layer of ice against the beach.

ice and goose platformsWasaga Beach Provincial Park. Photo: Enrique Photo Art

*Safety reminder* These ice formations have many hidden thin spots and ice tunnels that funnel people into the water with no escape. Enjoy these formations from dry land.

frozen shores

You may find interesting ice formations along the coast, especially on the Great Lakes.

coastal icicles

Late fall or early winter storms can create some interesting ice formations, but every year is different. Some years, lakes like Lake Superior even freeze over, creating ice caves.

*Safety reminder* A frozen coast can make walking very difficult.

Ice “pancakes”

Behold: the rare and elusive snow pancake!

ice pancakesArrowhead Provincial Park

These formed at the bottom of a small set of rapids on a very cold day (around -20°C). There was little wind to alter the current. As a small piece of ice formed, it continued to spin in the current, forming almost perfect circles.

ice volcanoes

Lake Ontario almost never freezes. And sometimes, when the conditions are right, we have volcanoes!

Ice Volcanoes Presqu'ile Provincial Park.Peninsula Provincial Park

When it gets cold enough, ice begins to build up along the coast as an ice shelf. If the temperature, wind direction and wave height are correct, the sloping limestone just offshore funnels waves under the ice shelf and up through it at a weak point.

This results in a blowhole-type phenomenon, in which frozen water shoots into the air through the ice. This water falls back and freezes, eventually forming a cone through which the water continues to erupt. A volcano! An ice volcano!

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sun dog

Here is a rarity. This is a photo of a sun dog (see the rainbow in brackets in the winter sun?).

sun dogAlgonquin Provincial Park

But wait, you say. What does that have to do with ice?

Sun dogs form when sunlight passes through. ice crystals in the atmosphere, which act like a prism and refract light.

Snowballs that roll by themselves

snow rolling down the hill

Okay, they’re not ice, but Algonquin’s self-rolling snowballs are a sure sign of spring.

On warm, late winter days, you may see these snowballs rolling alone on some slopes of Highway 60 in Algonquin Provincial Park. When a chunk of snow falls from the ridge, gravity rolls it downhill, accumulating more mass as it rolls.

Do you visit your local provincial park?

Keep your eyes open for frozen waterfalls and other “cold” ice formations. And when you take a photo and post it on social media, don’t forget to tag us!