Stay Off Initial River Trail Plowed From Bethel To Aniak

Feb 1, 2019

The Native Village of Napaimute's 35 year old plow truck named Tumlista, the One Who Makes a Trail.
Credit Mark Leary / Native Village of Napaimute

This week a crew has plowed 135 miles of an ice road from Bethel to Aniak. Mark Leary, with the Native Village of Napaimute, leads the crew and reports that there are wet, rough ice stretches from Akiak to Aniak, with the roughest ice sitting just below Aniak.

“Because of the kind of freeze up we had— long, drawn-out, warm— there are some sections that are especially rough, because they stopped and then they moved again. And every time they move they pile up worse,” Leary explained.

With the ice so rugged, Leary says that its thickness varies, ranging between 25 and 30 inches, thick enough to be just beyond the reach of a 2 foot chainsaw.

“We always tell people that the rough ice is our friend," he said. "It might be tough to go through, but it’s generally thicker, and safer, and stronger than smooth ice.”

The crew has only broken the trail with the plow truck. They still need to smooth and widen it with a grader to create a useable ice road. Leary says that the middle river also needs to dry, following a recent meltdown.

“Stay off of it. Let it harden back up," he advised. "The ice is still safe. The main ice is still safe, but it’s that overflow on top. Just be patient. Don’t tear it up. It just makes travel miserable for everyone later on.”

The ice on the lower river, however, is not safe for travel. On Wednesday, Bethel Search and Rescue member Earl Samuelson warned travelers that the lower river ice is refreezing following a warm spell, and water pockets have only a thin covering of ice. Travel at this time could be dangerous and could create a rutted trail once the ice strengthens again.