Ice and Snow

Photo by Rich Middleton, deer in snow
While walking through deep forest last weekend with a game warden … snow nearly 3 foot deep and no snowshoes… I learned a lovely “Indian trick”… to walk directly on the deer paths visible in the snow. As deer walk their paths through the winter, the snow is compacted. So while the 3-foot deep snow off the paths had us floundering, walking directly on the deer paths provided solid, easy footing.

River ice is to be measured for the next week to develop a forecast for when the first commercial barges might be able to come north through Lake Pepin. According to KTTC, Rochester, MN, the ice is measured at 25 coordinates between Wabasha and Frontenac, Minnesota.

The tows generally begin pushing up river in mid-March, but ice depths must drop below 12 inches. Currently, the ice is still 17 inches thick. If necessary, barges are lined up in SINGLE FILE to get through the ice. It’s called “mule training.” One new barge dispatcher remarked, “I didn’t even know we still used mules!”

For some great photos and observations from one of those towboat pilots who had to push through Lake Pepin every year, I recommend ONE MAN and the MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI by Capt. Norman Hillman. Look for the “Riverbooks” dock on the home page at 
MORE SNOW! and dealing with the MELTOFF
Finally we are expecting more snow today, hopefully without any plummeting temperatures. Snow was melting yesterday, so talk of spring floods is starting to perculate. Thus far, official suggestions are that flooding will not be a big issue along the Upper Mississippi. But we haven’t seen this much snow in many years, either. My guess is that further down river flooding will be more of an issue. So we will be posting updates as we get them.

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