If this image didn't have the caption "Skating Party in the 80's" I might not have given it a second look. But sure enough these folks have ice skates strapped on their feet, and the Columbia looks both frozen and free of snow. With a city of just 200 people in the 1880's, either we're looking at a good percentage of the population of Hood River or these folks are on a rail excursion from Portland.
A few months ago I ran across a reminiscence in the January 27, 1950 issue of the Hood River News describing skating in the late 1800s's:
Those were the days that I guess we will never see again. Cold weather didn't seem to hamper people so much. Anyway, from the recreation standpoint there was as much -- or more of -- to be had than now, and for free. You didn't have to worry about unheated gymnasiums or places to park the car near the theater. People didn't hover over a radio and forget they had neighbors and friends. In those days besides the sleighs and sleds, you had skating for recreation and by golly there were adults and children alike out on the ice skating! One of the best sports of all was for two people on skates to hold onto an umbrella and, when the wind was blowing good and strong from the east, you'd skim down the Columbia river ice a mile or more. Nor was the sport of skating on the Columbia here limited to local folks, either. It was nothing to see an excursion party of 50 or 60 get off the train from Portland, come up just to enjoy the fun.
I will keep searching for photographic evidence of wind-powered skating, but it's not hard to imagine resourceful Hood Riverites finding a use for the winter east wind.
Today's Monday Mystery is for all the weather geeks out there: what was the last year the Columbia froze from shore to shore, and what is the effect of the Bonneville and Dalles Dams on that phenomenon? Get to work, because my skates are sharpened and I want to know how long I'll have to wait.
Category: [Downtown Hood River]
This isn't the answer, but interesting; I have memory and photos of the Lower Columbia in January of 1979 with ice flow, but it certainly didn't freeze from shore to shore.
Jim Mason on 5th December 2011 @ 7:10am
Notice how many have bare hands.
I have photos of the Columbia River frozen down by Government Island, where the I205 bridge crosses.
You couldn't ice skate, because the frozen river was made up of huge jagged chunks of ice that had floated down the river and frozen together.
I am surprised the Columbia, in front of HR was smooth enough to skate. I would think it would have to be a slough, where the water was calm.
l.e. on 5th December 2011 @ 8:22am
All I can offer about the dams, is that they prevent the ice chunks from floating down.
l.e. on 5th December 2011 @ 8:24am
In a Google search I found the following information regarding the effect a dam has on river ice formation: In the case of impounded waters, the still water allows heat storage to take place, making the temperature of the dam water often seasonally higher than the normal temperature of the river basin and that the relatively warm winter releases from reservoirs in cold climates will inhibit the formation of ice downstream.
My take from this information is that freeze events on the Bonneville Reservoir are less frequent now than before the installation of the dams in Cascade Locks and The Dalles.
As for the last time the river froze over from shore to shore? The only information I could find was from an Oregonian article: ‚Äúthe Willamette River was frozen to the depth of seven inches in Eugene! 1933 also froze the Columbia, and may have been the most recent occurrence of this‚Ä?.
Jim on 5th December 2011 @ 11:35am
I bet it was fun to let the east wind catch an umbrella and pull you down the river, but can you imagine the hard work skating but up the river against the wind?
That is a neat bit of history Arthur.
I am going to guess the skating party is local. I would think if you could afford to ride the train up for skating, you could afford some winter clothing.
It sounds like 1888 was a brutally cold winter, with the Columbia River frozen.
l.e. on 6th December 2011 @ 11:13am
The cold hard winters in the 1880's were caused by the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano. The climate change lasted 5 years. The Montana ranchers lost most of their cattle in those years. The part about the dams warming the water makes sense.
Laird on 6th December 2011 @ 3:26pm
(From another Lower Columbia forum); One effect of the dams is to keep water levels relatively high. With no dams, water levels fluctuated to a much greater degree (pun intended.) When levels very low, the water was more susceptible to freezing.
Jim Mason on 12th December 2011 @ 6:16am