Lower Kuskokwim still unsafe for travel

by Sophie Evan on November 18, 2011

BSAR aerial photo of open water between Akiak and Tuluksak.

A new report by Bethel Search and Rescue of current ice conditions on the Lower Kuskokwim shows a lot of open holes still on the river. Alaska State Trooper Pilot, Earl Samuelson, and other BSAR members conducted an aerial survey this week to assess freeze-up conditions.

The report says that main river travel is NOT recommended at this time, and that they observed thin ice, open holes, and overflow from Bethel upriver to Kalskag. Search and Rescue says experienced travelers have been using the back overland trails from the outlying villages to come into Bethel.

On a previous survey, earlier this month, BSAR says the stretch from Straight Slough to Nick O Nick’s island had four open holes. However, they say as of November 16th those previously open areas showed recently frozen ice. The closest open hole to Bethel, is in the main channel along the cut bank of the big Gweek Island.

The Kuskokuak slough between Kwethluk and Akiak has six open holes; one is at the mouth of the Little Kasigluk River. There are about the same number of holes—six–that are in the main Kuskowkim above the Kuskokoak slough to Akiak. BSAR says there is no river trail between Akiak and Tuluksak, and that there are many open holes.

There is also no river trail between Tuluksak and Kalskag at this time. The BSAR aerial survey showed thirty (30) open holes in this fifty (50) mile stretch of the Kuskokwim River. They are at the usual spots like; Nelson Island, East Bank above Bogus, Edward Wises’, and Coffee’s fishcamps. BSAR says there are many more holes in unusual spots as well.

The report says the river below Bethel and the Akiachak channel were NOT observed.

BSAR is advising everyone to be patient, and to use the back trails whenever possible, and to stay on established trails. Also be aware of overflow that is hiding under the snow off of the trails.

The Bethel Search and Rescue members will be holding fund raising activities during the Thanksgiving weekend.

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