What Are These Fences For?
August 21, 2016 8:11 PM   Subscribe

While travelling through Wyoming, we saw these fences quite a bit, but we didn't understand what they are for...

These fence were always on the west side of the highway, facing west, never east. They started and stopped without ever being connected to or joined up with anything else. In very few cases, there were two or three rows of evergreen trees along the west side of them.

These pictures aren't that great, but I image they are plenty good enough for anyone who knows what these fences are for in the first place. (The fences in question are the brown, wood-planked fences in the center of each photo, not the fences 50 feet off the interstate.)
posted by TinWhistle to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Snow fences. I'm not totally sure of their purpose but someone will be along soon who is.
posted by bendy at 8:15 PM on August 21, 2016

Best answer: Are they to stop/slow snow from blowing onto the highway?
posted by lilac girl at 8:15 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: They're snow fence. Unlike the plastic stuff, these are durable enough to last several years and big enough to slow a lot of snow. (You'll also see this kind in Colorado.) They're away from the road so the drifts have space to form without blocking the road. They're only built where drifts historically cause trouble, which is why they're intermittent.
posted by Ookseer at 8:15 PM on August 21, 2016 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Yep, they stop snow from blowing across the highway. We drove through Wyoming and several other rectangle states on our move from California to Minnesota during a winter several years back and I was glad to have them.
posted by padraigin at 8:35 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Where conditions are especially bad, you may see multiple parallel rows of snow fences. Here's a picture with three rows. I have seen as many as eight.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:22 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

You'll also see them at ski resorts as a means to "farm" the wind blown snow. The idea is that the fence will stop the wind blown snow and then they can come out with a snow cat to spread that snow around.
posted by mmascolino at 7:51 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some prairie farmers have adopted the practice of:
1. dig a trench at right angles to the prevailing wind
2. plant a row of trees upwind of the trench

During the winter, the row of trees breaks the wind so that snow drifts into the trench. When the weather warms up, the snow melts and irrigates the soil naturally.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:27 AM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is the same principle behind sand fences, too. They often look very similar.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:07 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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