Ice out on Yukon River 2 Pilot Station Alaska by Mark Dornblaser U.S. Geological Survey

It’s Break Up Time in Alaska!

A few days ago, the outside temperature was just above freezing. I basked in the warmth of the sun heating up the interior of my car as I drove across town. As I turned into the right lane, my wheels hit the puddle of snow melt and threw water over the curb. “Break up is here,” I said to myself, glad no one was walking nearby. I’d hate to drench someone with that icy, dirty water.

Break up is the time of year when the snow and ice melt. (You’ll see it as one word or two, capitalized or not, so I just picked one spelling variation here to be consistent.) It gets its name from the dramatic break up of river ice, which is a lot more impressive than watching cars run through puddles. Other northern locales have break up too, but we like to claim it as an Alaskan thing.

Ice out on Yukon River 2 Pilot Station Alaska by Mark Dornblaser U.S. Geological Survey
Ice out on Yukon River 2 Pilot Station, Alaska by Mark Dornblaser U.S. Geological Survey [email protected]

Break up season varies around Alaska—here in Southcentral, we get it before the Interior or Arctic region. The Nenana Ice Classic ( the biggest break up celebration in Alaska. It’s a lottery where people guess when the Nenana River will melt enough to knock down a tripod set on top of the ice. Last year, the winners split a pot of $300,000 when it went down on April 23.

Of course some of us like the play on words between the season break up and a break up in a relationship. My local romance writers group used to run a break up writing contest at this time of year, when people submitted their best break up or fight scene. We read some awesome ones over the years. A break up is a good way to create a “dark moment” for a romance plot, as long as it’s only a temporary setback for the heroine. I’d love to see one set during break up season—would be a nice metaphor, don’t you think?

Here’s wishing you a good break up, or spring if that’s more your style. Stay away from the curb, just in case. 🙂

I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.

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