Thirty years ago, the Ohio River froze. Solid. Like a skating rink. It was mid-January of 1977 when the mercury plummeted and the Queen City endured its lowest temperatures in recorded history – minus 20 to 25 degrees. “City On Ice: Schools Close, River Chokes,” announced one banner headline.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of daredevils chose to stroll beneath the bridges and across the river’s tundra, literally “walking on water.” Coast Guard officers estimated the frozen facade at eight to 12 inches thick, and one local poet labeled her “the Beautiful Ohio, the Midwest’s longest piece of ice.”

It was an eventful week in general, as the country saw Jimmy Carter move into the White House and the Roots mini-series air on television sets. Locally, jurors were busily swearing in for the Larry Flynt trial. But the waterway dominated the news. It was the first time since 1963 that the Ohio River had been reported 100 percent frozen, only this time, the solid ice stretched from Pittsburgh all the way down to Louisville.

One newspaper photograph displayed a steady line of pedestrians, crossing from Riverfront Coliseum to Newport, with the headline “Perilous Promenade.” “I’m not a bit scared,” said one Charlie Bird of Norwood as he lingered alongside the Roebling Bridge. Herbie Hooks of Pleasant Ridge actually skated across, while Bill Kittmeyer of Delhi Hills escorted his four sons out on the ice fronting Anderson Ferry.

Cincinnati Police finally closed the Public Landing to pedestrian and auto traffic in an effort to keep adventurers off the river rink. The effort failed miserably. Dewey Deluso of the Newport Yacht Club and Dick Duvall of Edwards Restaurant chose to join each other mid-stream, carting a table onto the river so they could sit and sip champagne. And at least one driver dashed across the river in his vehicle. “There’s no law against it. There’s no law against suicide,” quipped one District Three police sergeant. “Let us know when he disappears.”

Perhaps all this fool-hearted bravado was a reaction to the frigid weather and snow, a strike back at a capricious Mother Nature. As City Council sought federal disaster relief and Amtrak canceled all passenger train service to the city, the Cincinnati Enquirer adorned its own masthead across the front page with a dusting of white snowflakes.

By week’s end, the weather had begun to warm, forcing firefighters to chip apart the nine-story-high icicles before they fell from downtown skyscrapers. As the river thawed, a daring few still took to the cracking ice. Capt. W.A. Boudreaux, skipper of the petroleum barge “City of Pittsburgh,” was astounded to encounter pedestrians in his ship’s path as he plowed through the thinning ice. The barge captain and his 12 crew members frantically warned off the strollers with bullhorns. River strolling was a hard habit to break. As Carol Bird of Norwood put it, “I probably won’t be able to do this again for 100 years.”