12-6-14 Bethel – Kwethluk Trail Marked

trail markers used on Bethel - Kwethluk trail every 1/10 of mile or less apart

trail markers used on Bethel – Kwethluk trail every 1/10 of mile or less apart

This is the route BSAR marked on 12-6 between Bethel and Kwethluk

This is the route BSAR marked on 12-6 between Bethel and Kwethluk

BSAR crew takes a coffee break with Kwethluk's main winter safety man: Elia Epchook (3rd from left)

BSAR crew takes a coffee break with Kwethluk’s main winter safety man: Elia Epchook (3rd from left)

BSAR President Mike Riley leads crew. Members Hugh Ashepak & Jim Pete, Jr. in the background

BSAR President Mike Riley leads crew. Members Hugh Ashepak & Jim Pete, Jr. in the background

The BSAR crew heads home at the end of a good day on the River

The BSAR crew heads home at the end of a good day on the River

A hardworking crew of BSAR members marked the trail between Bethel and Kwethluk today. Markers are wooden stakes with white reflectors spaced 1/10 of a mile or less apart.

They also finished marking the recently frozen open water areas as the new ice over these holes is 3″ or less.

trees with blue reflectors are used to mark open water & thin ice areas

trees with blue reflectors are used to mark open water & thin ice areas

A small BSAR team made an advance recon trip through Kuskoquak Slough upstream of Kwethluk to its upper end where it meets the main Kuskokwim. This stretch of river is not recommended for general travel yet. There are still at least 3 open holes. One very large unmarked open hole is dangerously close to where the normal trail would be. The ice is very smooth and slippery. It would be hard for someone who gets off the trail to stop in time to avoid the deep, swift water.

BSAR member Nick Phillips points out the large open hole in Kuskoquak Slough above Kwethluk

BSAR member Nick Phillips points out the large open hole in Kuskoquak Slough above Kwethluk

A big thank you to all the BSAR members who helped out today with improving safe travel for the People along the River.

 

12-5-14 Warning: Open Holes in the Bethel – Kwethluk Area

Open Hole on the east side of the River that BSAR & KSAR are working to mark

12-5 Open Holes 004

Today a BSAR team lead a group of travelers up to Kwethluk for a funeral, then they took a closer look at the section of the River between Bethel and Kwethluk. While the current trail described in our 12-4 post is safe, they found that there is still at least two open holes and a large area of only 3″ thick ice between the two communities. They also noticed that some travelers are not following the well used trail and just zooming down the smooth River assuming everything is safe.

There is one big long open hole along the east (north) bank across from and above the upper end of Church. BSAR and KSAR (Kwethluk) worked on marking this today with trees but only completed the east side and upper end of the hole before dark. We will work to finish the rest on 12-6.

The is another small open hole just around the bend downstream of Kwethluk along the east (north) bank of Kuskoquak Slough. This hole is marked.

In addition there is a large area of ice only 3″ thick below the Bethel Bluffs where an open hole that stretched across almost the entire River has just recently frozen over.

See map below for the approximate location of these open holes and thin ice areas:

Map of 12-5 Open Water & Thin Ice Areas Between Bethel & Kwethluk

Map of 12-5 Open Water & Thin Ice Areas Between Bethel & Kwethluk Shown in RED CIRCLES – safe trail is in YELLOW

BSAR will be working to mark the trail to Kwethluk on 12-6. Members and other volunteers that want to help can meet at the BSAR headquarters at 10 AM.

Thank you.

BSAR member looks back at small open hole below Kwethluk

BSAR member looks back at small open hole below Kwethluk

 

12-4-14 BSAR River Report: Bethel-Kwethluk Trail

Current trail between Bethel & Kwethluk as of 12- 4-14

Current trail between Bethel & Kwethluk as of 12- 4-14

December 4, 2014 – Bethel Search & Rescue River Report*

BSAR members did a survey of the recently established trail to Kwethluk. This is what was observed.

Summary:

With cooler weather and increased river traffic from Kwethluk to Bethel, a BSAR team did an assessment of the trail. The conditions they found were better than expected. The trail on the River is very smooth and ice thicknesses ranged from 8” to 12” along the entire route. Measurements were taken by chainsaw with a marked bar. The trail is all on the ice except for the one portage that comes out at Max Olick’s fish camp. No open water was visible from this trail.

This is a description of the current route between Bethel and Kwethluk:

Leaving Bethel the trail can be picked up just above the entrance to the small boat harbor. Right now it is just one main trail that has been well used. There are side trails turning off to nets but the main trail is obvious. Do not follow any single tracks.

The trail continues on up around Joe Pete’s Bend. It does not go through Straight Slough at this time. From Joe Pete’s Bend it crosses over to the mouth of Church Slough. The ice at this crossing was 12” thick. Ice through Church Slough was averaging 10”.

Coming out of Church Slough the trail favors the right (west) side of the River up to just below the Kwethluk/Akiachak Y. There is no trail up Kuskoquak at this time. Instead the trail turns into the Akiachak Channel and uses “Max Olick’s” portage (so-named because the upper end comes out at Max’s fish camp)

Coming back out to the River the trail goes over to the mouth of the Kwethluk River and on into the village.

Caution: there is still an open hole up near the high school. Travelers should enter the village from one of the lower landings like by the Sport’s Store.

Closing: No immediate danger was observed along the current trail between Bethel and Kwethluk. The ice is pretty thick – especially considering we’ve had a record warm November. There are no open holes. And there is enough snow on the ice to make the trail easy to follow. However it is slippery with just a little snow on top of glare ice and there are patches of shallow shell ice from puddles of recently frozen overflow so travel under 30 miles per hour is recommended. Also if the wind picks up or it starts melting again and the little snow we have goes away, the trail will be hard to follow.

BSAR will be working to mark this trail over the weekend if conditions continue to improve.

Safe Traveling from BSAR.

*Please note: This is not an advisory that it is safe for travel. It is for informational purposes only.

 

Ice Load Information

Here is some ice load information gathered from various sources. Please note that not everyone agrees on the safe ice thicknesses for various loads and that there are many variables to consider when determining if the ice is safe for the load you want to put on it. This post is just for general information purposes.

Ice load info from the Farmer's Almanac

Ice load info from the Farmer’s Almanac

From the Army Corp of Engineers:

Every winter it becomes very important to know when the ice is safe to use. Here are some guidelines for determining the safety of freshwater ice. The following table of safe loads is valid ONLY for ice that is clear and sound, with no flowing water underneath. It is not reliable for stationary loads. When in doubt, stay off the ice !

It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the Safety on Floating Ice Sheets information by CRREL.

Loads on Ice

Required Minimum Ice Thickness in inches Description of Safe Moving Load
1-3/4 One person on skies
2 One person on foot or skates
3 One snowmobile
3 A group of people walking single file
7 A single passenger automobile
8 A 2-1/2 ton truck
9 A 3-1/2 ton truck
10 A 7 to 8 ton truck

From www.engineeringtoolbox.com:

Safe loads for clear solid ice are indicated below:

Thickness of Ice Load or Activity
in
< 1 3/4 STAY OFF
1 3/4 One person cross county skiing
2 One person on foot or skates
3 Snowmobile or smaller ATV, groups of people walking single line
4 Person ice fishing, good for walking individual
7 A small car
8 A 2 1/2 tons truck
9 A 3 1/2 tons truck
10 A 7 – 8 tons truck

Note that ice strength is influenced by many factors

  • age – newer black ice is stronger than old milky
  • distance to shore – ice close to shore is weaker than ice farther out
  • river outlets and inlets – ice close to outlets and inlets is weaker
  • obstructions like rocks, trees and plants
  • water currents
  • cover of snow

 This information must be used a general guide – keep off the ice if you are not absolutely sure.

 

12-3-14 Beware of Following a Single Trail!

Foolish Travel Endangers Others Who Follow

12-3 Kuskokwim between Straight Slough and the Old Airport: Foolish Travel Endangers Others Who Follow

On the evening of December 3rd, BSAR was notified by a pilot that a snow machine had driven across an open hole just above Bethel. A team was sent out to block off the bad trail so others wouldn’t follow it. This traveler was zooming down the middle of the River and went right across what looked like an open hole. Fortunately, it was just a wet spot from Sunday’s rain with original ice underneath. This overflow did however have a layer of ice over it which is dangerous for snow machines traveling at high speed – easy to lose control and crash.

While the BSAR team was chainsawing  markers into the ice at the lower end of this area, another snow machine came down from upriver following this bad trail. Attempts were made to wave the traveler off, but he continued right across the half-frozen overflow and almost crashed before regaining control of his machine.

Please beware of following the single trail – some of the people who make them are foolish travelers with no concern for those who might follow.

Thank you.

12-2-14 Pictures from Aniak & Chuathbaluk

Looking Upstream from Aniak - photo by Dave Cannon

Looking Upstream from Aniak – photo by Dave Cannon

Moving ice & very high water at Chuathbaluk - photo by Patricia Yaska

Moving ice & very high water at Chuathbaluk – photo by Patricia Yaska

20141202_150505-001

Moving ice & very high water at Chuathbaluk – photo by Patricia Yaska

20141202_150500-001

 

Viewers are welcome to send in pictures of River and trail conditions in their areas. Email pictures to: napaimute@gci.net or text to 545-2877

Thank you.