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Postcard from the Past: Ice Jam a Novel Sight

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

An article in the April 10, 1913 issue of The Saratoga Sun gave a detailed description of a big ice jam on the Upper North Platte River, which wiped out the original wooden Butler Bridge near a ranch eight miles east of Riverside, in southcentral Carbon County. 

The story reads:

C. A. Cook was down from Brush Creek on Tuesday and told of the sights at the big ice jam up at the Butler Bridge. Cook left his ranch and went over to Canyon Station on the S. and E. Railroad to meet his son Freeman who was coming home from Ft. Collins, Colo. – this was Sunday morning. 

The big ice gorge was well up above the bridge, and it was not thought it would be out without being dynamited.

Cook’s son went on up to Encampment, having gotten arrangements mixed, and as the train did not stop, Cook started back home. 

Just as he got in sight of the river, he could see the ice gorge moving slowly down the river, and realizing the danger connected with crossing, he stopped upon the high bank south of the bridge. 

He said it was  the greatest sight he ever saw or ever expected to see again.

He said the ice in front seemed to move considerably slower than the rear, and as a consequence, it would pile up until it would over balance and with a terrific roar, it would roll over in front. Some of the rolls would be 20 feet high before going over. 

When the ice struck the Butler Bridge, he said it no more stopped it than could a fly. He said he could not see any effect the bridge made upon it. It moved right up to the bridge, taking the bridge out without any effort at all.

He said had the gorge kept going down the river without lodging again, it would have taken out everything with it as far down as it would travel. 

It jammed again down near William Sowder’s ranch and flooded the country until Tuesday night, until it broke up again.

Cook has come clear down here Tuesday to get back home with his team and buggy.

Another article in the same issue of the paper reported on “Big Ice Gorges.” Following are excerpts from this news item.

Big Ice Gorges – ice doing considerable
damage all up and down this valley, taking out dams and part of bridges 

The sudden breaking up of the ice in the North Platte River has caused no end of trouble and expense clear up and down the valley. Jams all the way up the river, every few miles, have flooded the river bottoms, doing considerable damage to ranches in the way of washing out ditches and dams. 

At times, the river has been full of ice as it would run, and some of the cakes were 10 to 20 feet square. As the river is up pretty well, the ice was traveling at a pretty fast rate of speed, and when even one struck anything, they tore it up. 

The big piles under the railroad bridges were literally chewed off, finally torn out completely and taken away, leaving the decks hanging by the steel. 

It finally broke, again jamming and taking out part of the Butler Bridge. See photo and cutline below.

The ice running in the river Sunday and Monday was worn until lots of the cakes were as round as a boulder and would turn over and over in the water, showing they had been pretty well hammered and jammed.

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