North

Dawson City, Yukon, ice bridge opens for 2019-20 season

After years of failed attempts, the official ice bridge in Dawson City, Yukon, opened a little before noon Monday.

Another river crossing for heavier vehicles is expected to open in mid-January

The ice bridge that connects Dawson City to West Dawson opened on Dec. 23, 2019. (Submitted by Jim Regimbal)

After years of failed attempts, the official ice bridge in Dawson City, Yukon, opened a little before noon Monday.

The crossing follows the same route as the George Black Ferry; it connects Dawson City at the Klondike Highway, near Front Street, with West Dawson at the Top of the World Highway.

Jim Regimbal, northern area superintendent for Yukon's Department of Highways and Public Works, said enough of the Yukon River froze this year to make it safe for traffic.

"I don't think it's 34th Street, so the 'Christmas miracle on Front Street,' I guess you can call it," Regimbal said with a laugh.

Vehicles weighing a maximum of 5,000 kg can now use the ice bridge for free, 24 hours a day.

"So, light vehicles, light pickups," Regimbal said.

Another crossing for much heavier vehicles is in the works and expected to open by mid-January. The 40-metre-wide bridge will be adjacent to the main bridge.

For the past few winters, the river didn't freeze over at the usual crossing spot, even after engineers tried putting a boom across the river last year.

The crossing spot in Dec. 2018. The government's attempts to build an ice bridge have been thwarted in recent years by patches of open water on the river. (Jesse Cooke)

Some residents used a makeshift crossing that was several kilometres long. The government-sanctioned bridge is about 152 metres long.

The contractor involved in creating this year's bridge had to level the 15-metre-wide bridge, cutting what Regimbal describes as "mini-icebergs" on the surface with chainsaws and axes.

The ice thickness ranges between 50 and 55 cm.

Regimbal recommends driving across it at no more than 10 to 15 km/h.

The bridge construction and maintenance will cost up to $200,000 when it closes, potentially sometime in March.

The original expectation was to open the bridge at the end of the month.

 

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