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Message From BSAR To Winter Travelers: Stick To Established Trails

Dec 4, 2017

Ice in the mid-channel at Bethel measures six inches of good, clear ice; just barely enough for safe travel.
Credit Bethel Search and Rescue

It’s early December, and the ice on the river trails around Bethel remains thin for this time of year. Bethel Search and Rescue surveyed the ice conditions on established trails to neighboring villages this weekend.


Bethel Search and Rescue advises people to stick to the heaviest used trails already grooved by four wheelers and snowmachines. Most of these trails have six inches of good ice. The rough ice has frozen thicker than smooth ice, and the slough trails measure 10 to 16 inches.

Open holes have not been marked, but several were observed including along Kuskokuak Slough above and below Kwethluk and in front of the Bethel Bluffs. Bethel Search and Rescue will begin marking open holes after flying an aerial survey.

Now for the trails:

From Bethel to Napaskiak: the trail runs along Oscarville Slough, but there is no marked trail across the Kuskokwim River to Napaskiak, and there is no river trail to Napakiak at this time.

From Bethel to Kwethluk: Bethel Search and Rescue cautions travelers to avoid the Kuskokuak Channel since there are many open holes below Kwethluk. Instead follow the markers from the west bank above Tupuknuk Slough to Max’s Portage.

According to Bethel Search and Rescue, the trail from Bethel to Kwethluk “uses Straight Slough, then goes across the Kuskokwim going into the portage on the east side of the river and coming out a couple bends inside Church Slough. Coming out to the river at the upper end of Church Slough, the trail follows the west bank past Tupuknuk Slough, then crosses over into the Akiachak Channel to use Max’s Portage coming out right across from the mouth of the Kwethluk River.”

Above Kwethluk there is no trail at this time.

From Bethel to Akiachak: the trail is all by back trail. It is not using the section of the Kuskokwim from the mouth of Tubungaluk to the mouth of the Gweek. Instead it’s using the route further from the river that comes out a couple bends inside the Gweek.

Above Akiachuk there is no established trail, and travel to Akiak is by back trail.

From Tuluksak to Akiak: travel is by back trail on the east side of the Kuskokwim. There is no established river trail since there are many open holes.

Bethel Search and Rescue is flying an aerial survey Monday and will issue another river report soon.