Ottawa River Freeze Up

The Ottawa River freezes in mid to late December. It is sometimes open at Christmas time, but very rarely at New Year's. The date of freeze up seems to be more variable than that of ice out, but human intervention — through the regulation of power dams — probably plays a larger role in determining the date of ice out than of freeze up.

While for most people, freeze up is not anticipated with the same eagerness as ice out, freeze up wins hands down from a photographic drama point of view.

2005 December 17

The Ottawa River is a big river. Its average flow is greater than all of the rivers of England and Wales put together. Consequently, it is slow to warm in the spring and slow to cool in the fall. Sometimes, in late fall, the water temperature can exceed the air temperature by 20 degrees C or more. On those mornings when the air is still, great banks of fog and mist envelop the river.

Sunrise at Burkes Beach on the Ottawa River

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Sunrise at Burkes Beach — 2005 December 08

But the most drama occurs when the temperature drops below minus 20C, while the river is still open.

Ottawa River freeze up at Petawawa

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The Ottawa River as seen from an ancient shore line of the Champlain Sea overlooking Petawawa Point — 2005 December 13, with an air temperature of about -20C.

Ottawa River freeze up at Petawawa

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Petawawa Point — 2005 December 13.

Ottawa River freeze up at Point Alexander

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Point Alexander — 2005 December 14. While the river was pretty well frozen over at Deep River, it was still open at Point Alexander.

minus 30 and open water at Point Alexander

(photo by Bob: 2004-12-20) 

Point Alexander — 2004 December 20 at -30C. (And a stiff breeze to boot. I have no idea what the wind chill was, but it sure was miserable out there!)