Early snowfall and moderate temperatures make for slow freeze up on the Kuskokwim

by Angela Denning-Barnes on December 2, 2013

BSAR measured 6 inches of ice crossing the river to Church Slough just upriver of Bethel. Photo/BSAR

BSAR measured 6 inches of ice crossing the river to Church Slough just upriver of Bethel. Photo/BSAR

Bethel Search and Rescue did a general survey of the river in the local Bethel area over the weekend and although eight inches of ice can be found out in front of Bethel, there are still many areas of ice between two and four inches thick. There are at least six open holes between Bethel and the Gweek River– only two are marked.

Here is the BSAR report:

The main river is rough just about everywhere from the high water level during freeze up – except for areas that froze over more recently. Although the water has dropped a couple of feet, levels are still high. Travelers should be aware of shell ice throughout the winter as the water continues to drop.

Most travel is by back trails but even on the land there are many places with water under the snow in the grassy areas. There is also open water in the swamps and creeks.

Large open hole at the upper end of Straight Slough. Photo/BSAR

Large open hole at the upper end of Straight Slough. Photo/BSAR


Light overflow can be found just about everywhere – common this time of the year. No trails are marked at this time.

Immediate Bethel Area:

There is still an open hole near the City Dock. There are also large holes at the upper end of Straight Slough and up at Joe Pete’s. No traffic through Straight Slough at this time.

Large Open Hole at the Upper End of Straight Slough

There has been some light traffic through Church Slough although the upper end had two big open holes just last week. Also the main river crossings at each end are rough. Travel through Church Slough is not recommended at this time.

6” of ice crossing the Kuskokwim to the lower end of Church Slough Moose crosses 3” of ice at the upper end of Church Slough
The River near the lower end of Church Slough The River at the upper end of Church Slough looking toward the “Y”

Well marked open hole at the mouth of the Gweek River. Photo/BSAR

Well marked open hole at the mouth of the Gweek River. Photo/BSAR

Trails:
All main trails to and from Bethel are overland at this time. Travel to Akiachak and Kwethluk is by the Hangar Lake back trail. Caution: there are 2 open holes at the mouth of Gweek. These holes are well marked with willows and BLUE reflectors. The trail to Akiachak goes into the Gweek and follows the normal route.

Well-marked open hole at the mouth of the Gweek River

The trail to Kwethluk follows the east bank of the Kuskokwim from the Gweek upstream and into the Akiachak channel then uses the portage that comes out at Max Olick’s fish camp right across from the mouth of the Kwethluk River. Ice in Kuskokwak Slough crossing over to the Kwethluk River was measured at 7”.

Bumpy, windy trail along the east bank from Kwethluk to the mouth of the Gweek River. Photo/BSAR

Bumpy, windy trail along the east bank from Kwethluk to the mouth of the Gweek River. Photo/BSAR

There is no trail above Kwethluk at this time. Kuskokwak still has several open holes and areas that have recently frozen over.
Travel to Akiak is by back trail from Akiachak. There has been no traffic by back trail from Akiachak to Tuluksak at this time.

It’s been a late freeze up with very high water, then early snowfall to hide and insulate the dangerous spots – a bad combination. If you must travel please be a little more cautious and stay on well-established trails until things get a chance to freeze better.
Thank you.

*BSAR note: This is not an advisory that it is safe for travel. It is for informational purposes

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