BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Despite being one of the warmest winters on record, tribes along the Kuskokwim River have created the region's longest ice road.
The 200-mile (322-kilometer) road stretches from Bethel to Crooked Creek, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday. The region's ice road has never before reached Crooked Creek.
"It was a good day, a lot of handshaking, a lot of backslapping," said Mark Leary, Director of Development and Operations for the Native Village of Napaimute.
Building the ice road provides employment during a time of year when seasonal work is hard to come by. It gives residents, businesses and government agencies the ability to avoid hefty plane tickets.
Many open holes still perforate the ice, but the freezing and thawing has created a glassy surface that is easy for crews to plow. Equipment upgrades have allowed crews to avoid constant breakdowns like past winters.
"They proved it can be done, safely, in a wild, long, lonely stretch of the river, too," Leary said.
Travelers along the road south of Crooked Creek are advised to take caution, though.
For 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Crooked Creek to Chuathbaluk, there's no cellphone service and the snow quickly drifts. Farther downriver there are two areas marked with "Danger" signs. One is 10 miles (16 kilometers) below Kalskag at Coffee's Bend, where the road winds between a cut-bank and an open hole. The other area is below Tuluksak, where dark sand has blown across the ice.
"And soon as that sand gets exposed and the sun gets a little stronger, we may lose that area very quickly," Leary said.
The road was cleared amid a winter when road plowing started in mid-January, a month later than usual.
Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org