Monday, January 20, 2014

Cold Cold Colchester Causeway

What: The Jons, Christin, and I headed out to Colchester to walk the Causeway and see what it would like like with all the snow. I was away for most of the cold weather in December and early January and wanted to see what chance the lake might have of freezing over this year. According to NOAA, the water temperature up around Colchester Point is 34degrees, and since freeze overs don't usually occur until the end of January or beginning of February, I'd say it's looking close.

Jon Bond, our intrepid explorer, testing the resilience of the ice

The covering ice Niquette and Mallet's Bay was stunning. With low visibility it seemed like an endless artic desert. The ice was in stark contrast to the other side of the trail, which was almost entirely open. The Causeway, which forms the barrier between Lake Champlain and Niquette and Mallet's Bay, is an old railroad bed constructed 1899 to open up markets in the Great Lakes. The "fill" is actually large chunks of marble, which supports a few limestone loving trees, like basswood and white cedar. 

Above shows a the clear difference in habitat between the more exposed lake and the more sheltered bays. Wind and surface turbulence of the water will draw up relatively warmer water from the depths of the lake buffering the lake from freeze. Water movement can also prevent freezing. Lower winds combined with shallowers depths allowed for the bays to freeze of first. The tongue of unfrozen water on the right side of the above image corresponds to where a bridge creates a break in the buffer and has allowed that stretch to remain unfrozen.

With another polar vortex in full swing and hopefully another couple weeks of subfreezing temperatures, we just might get a freeze over and I just might get to run across the lake. I posted last year about lake freeze over events (it hasn't froze over at the widest part - 9.5 miles from Burlington Bay to Corlaer Bay - in 32 of the past 54 years; and 6 of the last 6 years - since I moved here - it hasn't frozen over).

In the distance there was an oddly geometric island (in the photo above, it's just to the left of the island, but in the distance beyond the ice-locked boat). Turns out to be a (see this photo for what it looks like on a very distant beautiful summer day). 

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