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Interpreting the Evidence

Ice Jam on the Hudson River, Cold Spring, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Mid Hudson
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Ice Jam on the Hudson River, Cold Spring, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A building damaged by an ice jam at Cold Spring along the Hudson River, circa 1900.
Historical Context
Average temperatures in January in New York State are typically below freezing: 16°F in the Adirondack Mountains, 26°F along Lake Erie and in the lower Hudson Valley, and 31°F on Long Island.  These cold temperatures cause ice to form on rivers and lakes.

Ice jams result when there is a quick thaw.  The ice that has formed across the top of the water then breaks into large pieces and cannot move quickly with the current of the river.  Some of the pieces can get caught on the banks of the river, and then the pieces start to pile up, often causing damage and flooding.

Essential Question
How does geography influence human settlement patterns and economic systems?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of this recurring event on New York's settlement and economy.
Historical Challenges
When was the last time that an ice jam in New York State was declared a major disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Convert the average Fahrenheit temperatures stated above into Celsius.