Yukon Geological Survey warns against visiting Haines Junction ice cave

The Yukon Geological Survey is asking people to 'err on the side of caution' and avoid going into an ice cave near Haines Junction. The warning comes as visitors are flocking to see the glacier.

'These things will eventually collapse' says geologist about popular cave

This glacial cave is quickly becoming a major attraction near Haines Junction. However the Yukon Geological Survey has issued a public notice, asking people to be cautious and avoid going inside. (Steve Hossack)

The Yukon Geological Survey is asking people to stay out of an ice cave near Haines Junction that's recently become a popular spot for hikers. 

Jeff Bond, a surficial geologist with the Yukon Geological Survey says ice caves are always temporary. 

On Wednesday, the Geological Survey issued a public notice asking people to keep out. 

The note applies to all ice caves, not only to the one near Haines Junction. However it was prompted by increased traffic at the Haines Junction cave. 

A public notice posted by the Yukon Geological Survey asks people to avoid the ice cave. (Darren Holcombe/Yukon Geological Survey)

"We heard there were up to 75 people there at one time over the Easter weekend," Bond said."It's a melting feature. It's no longer part and parcel of the active glacier so it will eventually collapse." 

He notes that in 2015 an ice cave in Washington state collapsed and killed one person who was visiting.

Visitors flock to ice cave 

Yukon Geological Survey staff will visit the cave in the next few days. They'll be looking for signs of falling ice and getting some measurements to later assess how fast things are melting. 

The ice cave near Haines Junction is on Crown land or Commissioner's land as it is called in Yukon. 

The Geological Survey doesn't have any authority to prevent people from entering the cave. However Bond says staff might put up a warning sign "that basically indicates it's wise to not put yourself at any risk by entering the cave." 

'These things will eventually collapse,' explains Jeff Bond, surficial geologist with the Yukon Geological Survey. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Tourism operator sees potential 

Maxime Gouyou-Beauchamps is a backcountry guide who owns and operates the Terre Boréale tour company in the  summer.  

He says entrepreneurs have been talking about the idea of guided ice cave tours.

"Really it's an amazing place. The hike is easy and the view from the ice cave is gorgeous " he said.

'Once word gets around, it just becomes a destination,' said Brent Liddle of the caves. (Submitted by Lacey Hébert)

Gouyou-Beachamps agrees there could be some danger. He says any tour would bring people to the mouth of the cave but not inside.

Visitors can already see "massive blocks of ice that have broken apart from the cave itself. Some of them must be a couple tonnes," he adds. "Especially in the summer, when you have tonnes and tonnes of rock-solid ice above your head just hanging there ... You want to be careful."

So far the cave outside Haines Junction doesn't have a name. 

Gouyou-Beauchamps says it's a great opportunity for local tourism. 

"Are they going to have some kind of flagging along the creek to mark the trail? Maybe create a pull-out where people can park? Some things might change but it can be good for Haines Junction. It can bring another attraction for tourists. I can see some benefits from it." he said.

The Yukon Geological Survey will provide an update on conditions at the ice cave after visiting the site in the next few days.


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