After government's failed attempt, Dawsonites build their own ice bridge

Two clever Yukoners used little more than a length of rope and a dead tree to help freeze over a stretch of open water. 'It’s very simple and basic,' said Kyler Mather.

'It’s pretty amazing how quick the ice builds up,' says Kyler Mather, who used rope and a tree

The makeshift bridge on the Yukon River is about a half-kilometre upstream from where the territorial government's official crossing would normally be. (Submitted by Kyler Mather)

Some resourceful Yukoners say they've managed to do what the territorial government couldn't this year — build an ice bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City. 

And while the Yukon government spent $120,000 on its own ill-fated experiment last month, the two Dawsonites used little more than a length of rope and a dead tree.

"It's very simple and basic," said Kyler Mather, who lives in West Dawson, across the river from the main townsite.

"I would imagine in four or five days, there's no reason why you couldn't drive a car across. It's pretty amazing how quick the ice builds up."

People in West Dawson traditionally rely on a government-built and maintained winter road across the river, but for the last two years, a persistent stretch of open water has thwarted road builders.

Last month, the territorial government attempted to help the river freeze over by spraying water on the ice. The idea was to create an "ice Band-Aid" across the open water. The project was abandoned after a week.

"I didn't exactly grasp the whole concept of how it was going to work," Mather said. He and a friend decided to try something else.

Mather and a friend anchored a length of rope on either side of the open water, and attached a dead tree. Ice began to accumulate and solidify. (Submitted by Kyler Mather)

"We just put in a couple of anchors, one on either side [of the open water], and just strung a nylon rope from one side to the other. And we did two — we did one just a rope, and the other had a small spruce tree attached to it," he explained.

"Slush slowly started to accumulate and freeze to shore."

The makeshift bridge is about half a kilometre upstream from where the government ice bridge would normally be. Within a few days, Mather was able to walk across the newly-formed ice.

"It's fine. I checked it with the axe," he said. "We've had some pretty cold weather, so it builds up extra quick right now."

The bridge will be a use-at-your-own-risk prospect, so it's uncertain whether anybody will attempt to drive a vehicle across.

Typically, the territorial government's official crossing opens only when the ice can support large vehicles such as fire trucks. 

But even a pedestrian crossing is an improvement, Mather says. Right now, people are using a longer detour to get to a safe crossing point.

"It kind of just makes it shorter for the people that are walking," Mather said. 

'It's fine. I checked it with the axe,' said Kyler Mather. (Submitted by Kyler Mather)

With files from Claudiane Samson