For two straight weeks bridging 2017 and 2018, December 26th to January 8th, the mercury never crept above 32º. Those 14 sub-freezing days tied with 1979 and 1940 for the second-longest cold spell in the city’s recorded history, according to a thing I found on the internet. Only 1961’s 16-day streak beats it. Throw in a new phrase “bomb cyclone” to liven up a brutal winter storm in the middle of that cold spell, and you’ve either got more than enough reason to cuddle up next to the fire with a glass of cabernet, or you layer up to take advantage of an ever rarer phenomenon: deeply frozen rivers.
Friends of the Wissahickon’s 2018 calendar features photos from the historic archives they share with Chestnut Hill Conservancy, and January features a 1935 photo of ice skaters in front of Valley Green Inn. It seems like a long-gone era, but this two-week deep freeze had bodies of water so solid that not only were people walking out onto Wissahickon Creek, but a few guys cleared the snow in a stretch of the creek near the Henry Avenue Bridge and set up an ice hockey (and figure skating) rink. Winter classic indeed. And the Schuylkill River was so solid that I walked out 20 yards onto the ice to watch the sunrise, just because.
Over on the Delaware River, the upper reaches of the river froze with such intensity and depth that the enormous chunks of ice are STILL jammed up at the falls in Trenton, creating incredible photos ops that reach all the way to Philly, where the melting ice is still floating past Penn Treaty Park and Race Street Pier. Friday the 12th was the real stunner, with 60º temperatures clashing with the still-frozen waterways to produce advection fog that I heard more than one person refer to as a Philly film noir scene.
The photos below, more or less in chronological order, span two weeks and many miles across the Delaware’s watershed: Wises Mill Run, Cresheim Creek, Wissahickon Creek, Schuylkill River, the mighty De La Warr. Click any photo below to launch the gallery.