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The term freshet is most commonly used to describe a spring thaw resulting from snow and ice melt in rivers located in the northern latitudes of North America, particularly Canada. A spring freshet can sometimes last several weeks on large river systems, resulting in significant inundation of flood plains as the snow pack melts in the river's catchment area.

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The term can also refer to the following:

  • A flood resulting from heavy rain or a spring thaw.[1] Whereas heavy rain often causes a flash flood, a spring thaw event is generally a more incremental process, depending upon local climate and topography.
  • A stream, river or flood of fresh water which empties into the ocean, usually flowing through an estuary.[2]
  • A small stream of fresh water, irrespective of its outflow.[2][3]
  • A pool of fresh water, according to Samuel Johnson[4] and followed in Thomas Sheridan's dictionary, but this might have been a misinterpretation on Johnson's part, and it is at best not a common usage.[5][6]


  1. ^ Gieck, Jack (1988). A Photo Album of Ohio's Canal Era, 1825–1913. Kent State University Press. pp. xvii. 
  2. ^ a b Brown, Lesley (1993). The New shorter Oxford English dictionary on historical principles. Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon. ISBN 0-19-861271-0. 
  3. ^ Bonnier Corporation (1907-01 – 1907–06). Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. pp. 68–. ISSN 0161-7370.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Samuel Johnson (1773). A Dictionnary of the English Language. pp. 196–. 
  5. ^ Thomas Sheridan (1789). A Complete Dictionary of the English Language, Both with Regard to Sound and Meaning ...: To which is Prefixed a Prosodial Grammar. C. Dilly. pp. 286–. 
  6. ^ Timothy Dwight (1822). New-England and New-York. pp. 286–. 

External links[edit]

An example of usage of the term "freshet" is shown in the text on a historic marker at Durgin Bridge near Sandwich, New Hampshire.