Many of van Goyen's paintings are of scenes in and around Dordrecht. On the right of this painting is the Riedijk water-gate, which stood at the eastern end of Dordrecht: it was built 1590 and demolished in about 1830. In the distance on the far left, across the frozen Merwede river, are the ruins of Merwede Castle, which was built in the 13th century and ruined in the early 15th century. The ruins of the castle also appear in 'Peasants and Cattle by the River Merwede' by Aelbert Cuyp, which is also in the National Gallery's Collection.
This picture is unusual for van Goyen because, although he is famous for landscapes of rivers and estuarys, he painted few ice scenes. This ice scene is in the tradition established by Avercamp and is notable for the liveliness of the figures enjoying the pleasures of the ice. The scene is dominated by the wide expanse of grey sky and the gate rising over the figures on the right.