Nenana Ice Classic


High Drama When the River Runs Again by Beth Grassi In late April 2014, I stood on a bridge in Fairbanks watching the Chena River waking up under my feet. Flat chunks of ice bumped and bobbed down the river, some a thin, translucent gray, others rafts of white several inches thick. Ice floes and slush hissed through the rush of river water. It felt like standing on the prow of a ship, pushing through to spring. “Spring breakup” may sound like a sitcom episode, but in Alaska it’s a landscape-size drama. Most of Alaska’s rivers freeze over in winter, with ice up to several feet thick. When the rivers finally break free, usually in April and May (or even June in the Arctic), ice floats downstream. Sometimes ice jams—jumbles of ice floes—dam up a river. Large ice jams can cause dangerous flooding. Breakup plays out differently each year on…