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:
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 Falls Provincial Park
How about a before and after? Ragged Falls certainly looks different under a blanket of snow.
Oxtongue River – Ragged Falls Provincial Park
And watch the winter transformations of these three Lake Superior Provincial Park waterfalls!
Agawa Falls – summer
Agawa Falls – winter
Up Creek Falls – Summer
Up Creek Falls – Winter
sand river – summer
sand river – winter
Groundwater seepage occurs year-round in the landscape and, boy, can it be spectacular on winter cliffs!
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.
Algonquin 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.
An ice shelf appears along the coast. It is formed by waves that push layer after layer of ice against the beach.
Wasaga 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.
You may find interesting ice formations along the coast, especially on the Great Lakes.
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.
Behold: the rare and elusive snow pancake!
Arrowhead 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.
Lake Ontario almost never freezes. And sometimes, when the conditions are right, we have volcanoes!
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!
Here is a rarity. This is a photo of a sun dog (see the rainbow in brackets in the winter sun?).
Algonquin 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
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!