People are driving on Dawson City's $10 ice bridge

Kyler Mather and his friends built the Yukon River crossing with a chainsaw, and it's been doing the job. The territorial government didn't have the same success this year.

Kyler Mather and his friends built the Yukon River crossing with a chainsaw, and it's doing just fine

A couple of hours with a chainsaw built this crossing of the Yukon River in Dawson City — but drivers are using at their own risk. (Yukon Party)

It may have seemed at first like a harebrained scheme, but the ice bridge built by some industrious amateurs in Dawson City seems to be working.

Kyler Mather, one of the builders, said people have been using it for a few weeks to drive their vehicles across the Yukon River, between West Dawson and downtown. 

And it cost next to nothing.

"No more than ten bucks in chainsaw gas," Mather said.

Mather and his friends had better luck than the Yukon government. The territory hired engineers in December to build an ice road crossing in Dawson. One month and $150,000 later, those efforts were going nowhere and the government pulled the plug. 

Before that, though, Mather and his friends found their own solution. In January, they located a narrow stretch of open water on the river and got to work with a chainsaw.

They cut out a massive slab of ice that was then moved by the river's current to span the gap. 

The Dawsonites cut a big slab of ice in January that then drifted into place to span the open water. (Submitted by Kyler Mather)

"We weren't sure if it was going to break in half, or get sucked under by the current or whatnot," he said.

They were soon walking across, and Mather said a few weeks later people were driving on it. 

Still, he's not gloating over the government's failed efforts.

"In a way you're kind of comparing apples and oranges ... I think they were maybe bound by where they maybe had to go across," he said.

Driving across the Yukon River at Dawson City. (Yukon Party)

The government has said it can only build a sanctioned ice bridge where the ferry landings are, downstream from Mather's bridge. The amateur bridge is also a use-at-your-own-risk prospect, whereas a government crossing must meet certain official standards.  

The government has not said whether it will attempt to build an ice bridge again next winter. The river has typically frozen over naturally in years past, but that hasn't happened the last couple of winters.

With files from Nancy Thomson


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.