Ice Crystals On The Gunnison River, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado
While in Gunnison last week, I took a walk at Neversink in the Curecanti NRA on a twelve below zero morning looking for photo possibilities along the Gunnison River. The river is a frozen trickle in mid-winter, with small patches of open water surrounded by a cottonwood gallery forest. It’s a vital riparian area, with woody vegetation to give birds and rabbits cover – a wildlife oasis in the sage. I like to check the holes in the cottonwoods for an owl or a flicker, sometimes a raccoon. There were deer, rabbit, and coyote tracks in the snow and these interesting patterns of ice crystals on the frozen river. I talked to Western State College University wildlife biologist and professor Pat Magee about the crystals that form when dry cold air pulls moisture from the ice. Pat explained that the process goes from gas to solid, skipping liquid altogether. The crystals disappear as the valley warms and will reform when conditions are right, darn cold and dry. Fascinating, don’t you think?