Environmental stories that take place in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

Mark Leary

Little Bull has joined Mad Max and Big Miska in the tortured saga of broken down vehicles used to plow ice roads this winter.

Staff Photo

During closing remarks at yesterday’s Bethel City Council meeting, council member Fred Watson extended a public thank you to Bethel Search and Rescue after what has been a difficult, dangerous month. 

Mark Leary

Ice plowing crews are back at their job of smoothing a trail from Tuluksak to Napaimute following several days of sub-freezing temperatures after the New Year warm-up. The crews are expected to reach Kalskag Wednesday and are hoping to get to Aniak by Thursday.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the Yukon Delta and a winter weather advisory for the Lower Kuskokwim Valley.

The Lower Yukon Delta, which includes the villages around Mountain Village and St. Mary’s, went under warning Thursday morning and will remain under red alert until 6 p.m. Thursday night. The forecast for Thursday predicts patchy freezing fog, rain, freezing rain, and snow with little or no snow accumulation. South winds of 30 miles per hour with gusts to around 45 miles per hour are expected with high temperatures around 30.

Mad Max, the 52-year-old plow truck, scrapes a 25 mile trail from Kalskag to just above Tuluksak December 20 and 21, 2016.
Mark Leary

Ice crews have plowed a 25-mile stretch of the Middle Kuskokwim from Kalskag downstream towards Tuluksak. The remaining stretch to Tuluksak will most likely be completed after Christmas. Mad Max, the crew’s 52-year-old plow truck, broke down Wednesday one mile above Edward Wise’s fish camp, after plowing just a few hundred feet that morning. The harmonic balancer tore a hole in the timing gear cover, and parts have been ordered. The delay could prevent people from traveling to see friends and family during the holiday.

Katie Basile / KYUK

Temperatures spiked last week in Alaska, bringing rain, melted snow, overflow, and unsafe river conditions. This 

week it cooled down, and things are getting back to normal. Mike Riley of Bethel Search and Rescue says the ice road is safe to travel on once again. KYUK’s Adrian Wagner spoke with Riley about the state of river travel.


Today, as the North Pole tilts its furthest point away from the sun, the Northern Hemisphere enters its shortest day and ends its longest night of the year. In Bethel, that day will stretch five hours and 37 minutes between sunrise at 10:57 a.m. and sunset at 6:34 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Dave Cannon

A couple in their 60s died in a plane crash last week at Marvel Dome, an area northeast of Bethel. Law enforcement officials identified the bodies of Mark Matter, 62, and his wife Cecilia Matter, 63, of Aniak. The two were longtime residents of the small Alaskan village, and leave behind an impossible-to-fill void for friends and family. KYUK spoke recently with two of their surviving children. 

Katie Basile / KYUK

Around this time of year, people across North America look to the sky, their feeders, and the general outdoors to count birds. It’s known as the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, and birders in Bethel have been participating since 1980.

Bethel held its annual count Saturday and surpassed its goal of 10 bird species, counting 12 to 14. Kristine Sowl, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, organized the event. She says the numbers will be finalized later this week, but confirmed highlights include a great horned owl and a bald eagle. Sowl potted the eagle at the landfill.

Katie Basile / KYUK

Area residents traveling on the frozen Kuskokwim are being warned to stay off the ice. After several days of temperatures fluctuating above and below freezing, Bethel Search and Rescue President Mike Riley says the Kuskokwim River around Bethel is not safe for vehicle traffic. The high tide measures six feet deep at the lower end of Church Slough, and Riley asks everyone to stay off the river road for their safety and the safety of others.