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Just south of Fort Good Hope NWT, the mighty McKenzie River squeezes itself down into a comparative trickle between towering limestone cliffs. The Ramparts becomes a bottleneck during the spring break up when 6-foot vertical chunks of dirty block ice grind into the limestone banks. Narrow canyon walls channel the mass of thundering ice; they clog and crawl on top of each other.

Pushing and shoving the angry packing ice reaches heights of 20 feet or more. With a sigh the narrow opening slowly closes and the water in the river north of the white limestone begins to drop. There is a gigantic frozen plug damming the river. We hear the screeching and grinding of the massive cubes of river ice as it fights to escape to the sea. Debris from the winter is churned in the mix; garbage from the southern communities blends with splinters of northern spruce “pecker” poles.

Shudders in the earth signal a break in the pressure. Groaning, screaming blocks of frozen McKenzie River slam each other in their race to be first out of the jammed chute. Massive muddy blocks push smaller pieces under and into the river bed as they grind and fight their way north to the Arctic Ocean. In awe we watch this spectacle each spring as the Ramparts spews out this mass of frozen muck. Sitting on the riverbank high above the river we feel secure. With the river ice finally gone, travel between villages and to summer fish camps begins.

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