The Kankakee River ice jam is no more. Two days ago the temperature in Illinois soared to a record breaking 60 degrees; this on the heels of weeks of sub-zero temperatures that had frozen the river solid. As the thermometer climbed, the ice began to melt and crack, piling up in giant slabs that backed up the water and caused flooding upstream. Ice collected in a mountainous heap in front of Dad’s house and by midday the rising water began to push ice onto shore, in the process taking out everything in its path. At 8 p.m., Dad checked the water level and discovered it was over the dock and was rising fast. We held our breaths and prepared to leave if necessary, but by 10 p.m. the water was receding. Dad speculated that the locks downstream had been opened up to relieve the flooding.
By yesterday morning, all the ice on the far side of the island had been swept downstream and the river was again flowing, but the cove in front of Dad’s house still looked like a glacier, with jagged ice stretching from the shore to the island. Soon, the swift currents on the far side of the island began eating away at the ice in the cove. Before long, half the distance between Dad’s dock and the island had opened up. I pulled on boots, bundled up in two coats to keep warm in temperatures that were once again down to freezing, and grabbed my camera. At the shoreline, huge sheets of ice split and fell into the river, crashing into one another like a giant demolition derby. Further out, mini icebergs calved from larger mounds and floated away. The air was filled with crackling and popping that reminded me of the underwater sounds of Parrot fish eating coral reefs. Ice floated away from the shore and for a split second it felt as if the spot under my two feet was the only place in the world that was standing still, while everything else moved around me. It was surreal.
Initially I took wide angle photos, showing the ice-filled landscape, but before long I began to notice details. Intense sunshine had turned the normally muddy Kankakee a deep cobalt blue. Chunks of blue-white ice floated by on gently undulating waves. Some of the formations resembled giant transparent quartz crystals that sparkled like gemstones, while others had melted into delicate lacy sheets. Ignoring the wider landscape, I focused on the details, capturing hundreds of photos of unique ice sculptures in the space of an hour and a half. Since no words can adequately describe this beauty, I have included a sample gallery of the photos below. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed photographing them.