City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

January 17, 2017

January 17th

Filed under: Duck, Flood retention pond, Mountain Chickadee, picnic site 7, Weather — canopus56 @ 9:34 pm

Ice Mirror

1:00 p.m. City air grows thicker; buildings a mile away are reduced to mere outlines; and, during these inversion layers, the eyes burn and breathing becomes more labored. I escape to the canyon. I will not be able to reach clean air, but at least will see the beginning of blue skies. It is growing warmer, and the two ducks at the flood retention pond, who have used the pond as a refugee during this coldest part of the year, have left. There is only one chickadee call near the canyon’s mouth.

The retention pond has melted and then partially re-frozen. The frozen shaded part is covered with a thin layer of glass ice. Like its arctic ice pack counterpart, the floating ice layer has fractured and a network of miniature pressure ridges have formed in its surface. When sunlight hits it a the right angle, the glass surface reflects blue-green colors highlight by a bright fire-yellow spider web of pressure ridges. The pond at picnic site 5 is free of ice, and one small trout – the first that I have seen in the lower canyon stream since November 25th – dashes into the shadows. Above milepost 1.0 between picnic site 7 and picnic site 8 where the stream froze completely over into a milky cathedral (Dec. 20th), now there is a open channel in the middle of the stream, but near the banks, the stream retains its original thick layer of ice. In spots in this stretch, the stream has re-frozen and it is covered by a thin layer of delicate window-pane glass ice. This re-freezing process is echoed in the snow on the sides of the road: the surface has melted and then re-frozen. This is “crust” snow – a bane to both back-country and developed area skiers. Placing a foot on the surface, it feels strong, but when any weight is put on it, ones foot breaks through the surface revealing a sugar-powder snow underneath. At a winter intermittent seep near picnic site 7 where warmer water melts overlaying snow, rising vapor from the seep encrusts a cinquefoil sprout and overhanging twigs with its re-frozen waters in the form of intricate ice rime crystals.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on January 17th, 1852, he notes a sign of a clear, rested mind: enjoying watching sunsets. He comments on the infinite variety of shapes created by clouds.

On January 17th, 1918, Waterworks C.F. Barrett warned of flooding from City Creek into the city because of abnormally high snowfall (Salt Lake Telegram). On January 17th, 1909, City Water Commissioner Frank M. Matthews reported that City Creek delivered approximately 11,000,000 gallons of water a day to the City and that improvement of the road using prison labor continues (Intermountain Republican).

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