“But this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though

No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow,

And as long as it does I’ll just sit here

And watch the river flow.”

– Bob Dylan

The ice in the Klondike River let go all the way and surged to the Yukon right around noon today (April 23).

There was a time this would have signaled a seven to 10-day waiting period before the rising waters raised and lowered the ice in the Yukon enough for that river to break up as well, but it’s been a few years since we’ve been able to count on that.

These days it usually happens sooner rather than later.

Such being the case, I cannot guarantee that there will still be ice in the Yukon River when you read this, some 10 days after I put fingers to keyboard for this issue.

The 2012 Yukon Flood Risk report, issued at a meeting here in Dawson last week, indicates only a low risk of flooding this year.

Measurements show that the ice is generally thin. Flushing in the Klondike certainly pushed some bergs a couple of metres up on the banks bear the Ogilvie Bridge, but the bergs themselves were scarcely more than a metre thick at best.

There should be lots of water for awhile, as the snow pack is estimated to be 127 percent of its normal seasonal thickness, but that apparently contributed to the thin ice.

The report itself predicted that the Yukon River could break up during the last week of the month.

One of our local town councillors, Stephen Johnson, has charted all the breakup dates since 1896 and his graph shows a definite trend towards earlier break-up dates. His chart predicts May 4, but I seriously doubt we’ll get that far.

The members of the Yukon Order of Pioneers (IODE) have placed the break-up tripod out on the ice. They put it further out this year after the eroding ice pack nearly allowed it to tip over last year.

The IODE ladies have been madly peddling Ice Pool tickets for the last month, but will have stopped on April 25 at midnight. Half the pot goes to the person with the ticket closest to the actual time. Most of the rest goes to charitable causes.

There is an open channel of water all the way from the confluence of the two rivers to past the ferry landing.

On Sunday when we walked the dike the water was moving sluggishly between the shore and the ice pan, but it was faster today and it will eat at the pan with more determination.

When the tripod finally moves, it will pull the flagged wire running to the clock on the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre and stop the clock.

There will be people out there when it happens, because there are people out there at all hours of the day and night this time of year. Some of them will see what has happened and will notify the fire department to sound the siren.

Within minutes, the dike will be crowded with people watching the ice churn and bob its way down the river to the Arctic Ocean, many days away.

About a week later the George Black ferry will slide into the water, the Top of the World Highway will be declared open, and the buses and caravans will begin their summer pilgrimages.


After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.