Flooding Our Way to a River Crossing

While “flooding” and “Dawson City” are two phrases you might not want to hear together, at this time of year it’s actually a good thing. It means the river has solidly frozen and there’s an ice bridge under construction.

You will recall they pulled the George Black Ferry out of the water on October 22. Then on October 31 the ice had finally settled in, filled the channel from bank to bank and stopped moving.

From that point it became a waiting game to see how long it would be before any West Dawsonites came across. I’m told that happened on November 4, though I didn’t actually spot a footpath for another couple of days.

In fact, I made out two paths that day and saw a couple of people walking across, using the one that was marked with flags. It was a winding path, moving from one solidly frozen area to another.

Amazingly, most of the ice surface is as flat as a carpet, with the only jumble ice along the banks on either side.

A few days later the increasingly cold weather made people try heavier loads. Dog sleds, snow machines and light trucks toughened the trail by degrees, pounding it down and compacting the ice.

On November 14, I was able to sit down by the ferry landing along with two other vehicles (its not just me who’s curious) and watch several pick up trucks make a stately transit of the river in either direction.

This route is not the one preferred for permanent ice bridges, though.

When possible, the ice bridge is created between the two ferry landings, usually a number of weeks after the first cross-river trail is made.

This year, earlier than usual, the process of building the official bridge has already begun. It’s been consistently cold enough at night to thicken the ice, and not sunny enough in the day to affect it much.

So the Department of Highways has already been out there, using ATVs with ploughs to create two wide lanes, and auger through the ice to bring up water for flooding, thickening and hardening the surface.

Clearly they don’t want people to use it yet, because they’ve left the jumble ice at each end, which would wreck your vehicle’s undercarriage if you tried to cross it.

Everyone will shift over once the way is cleared out, though, because the early route winds from one side to the other and the official bridge will be shorter and smoother. At this rate it should be in regular use by the time you read this column in early December.

Given how fast the river is hardening, it probably won’t be too long before the hot rodders begin to put in an ice racetrack.

Stay tuned for more on that.

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