12-8 BSAR River Report*: a ground level look at the November ice jam at Coffee’s Bend

Spread the word...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
BSAR Members take an up close look at the Jam at Coffee's Bend - 10 miles below Kalskag

BSAR Members take an up close look at the Jam at Coffee’s Bend – 10 miles below Kalskag

On December 8th, a 3 man BSAR team traveled 90 miles upstream of Bethel by snowmachine to assess conditions for winter travel at the ice jam that occurred at Coffee’s Bend during the November break up of the Middle Kuskokwim.

They were only able to view the very lower end of the jam that extends several miles upstream. Earlier aerial reconnaissance showed that the worst section of this jam is about a mile further up.

This entire stretch of the Kuskokwim is impassable by motor vehicle at this time. Even walking through it is difficult.

The end of the line: from this point right at Coffee's old fish camp there is no more beach and the River is too rough to drive on

The end of the line: from this point right at Coffee’s old fish camp there is no more beach and the River is too rough to drive on

Broken pieces of ice are 4" - 12" thick

Broken pieces of ice are 4″ – 12″ thick

Ice is piled up to the top of the bank and into the willows

Ice is piled up to the top of the bank and into the willows

Broken ice in all kinds of thicknesses

Broken ice in all kinds of thicknesses

It will take a great deal of snow, wind and/or rain to improve this area enough for safe travel. Holiday travel from the Lower River to Kalskag may need to use the tundra, back sloughs, and old portages. One tough, brave person has already made the trip using these alternatives – taking two and a half days to go from Bethel to Kalskag. We will continue to monitor conditions in this area throughout the winter and into the spring to see how it affects the 2015 break up.

L-R: BSAR Members Manno Rodgers & Randy Turner make the long trip upriver to assess the jam at Coffee's Bend below Kalskag

L-R: BSAR Members Manno Rodgers & Randy Turner make the long trip from Bethel to assess the jam at Coffee’s Bend below Kalskag

Additional Observations Made on the Trip:

After two days of strong north winds – there is very little snow left out there. All River travel was on glare ice. The River around Akiak is sandy with blowing sand. The main trail to Akiak uses the Kuskokwim River from Akiachak. Kuskokquak Slough has two large open holes. One is marked – one is not. There is no main trail to Tuluksak on the River at this time. There is a very large unmarked open hole above Mike Napoka’s Island about halfway between Akiak and Tuluksak. Travel to Tuluksak is by back trail from either Akiachak or Akiak.

Above Tuluksak shell ice from last month’s high water is present on all the sandbars and beaches. This shell ice ranges from 1 to 2 feet or more deep.

Close up of the shell ice present all over on the beaches and bars above Tuluksak

Close up of the shell ice present all over on the beaches and bars above Tuluksak

This is how the shell ice above Tuluksak looks: white & puffy

This is how the shell ice above Tuluksak looks: white & puffy

While most of the small open holes above Tuluksak have frozen over there are still several large ones in 40 miles leading up to the jam at Coffee’s.

Large lip at the south end of an open hole at the upper end of Nelson Island above Tuluksak. This lip is over 2 feet tall from the strong north wind we've been having the past couple of days

Large lip at the south end of an open hole at the upper end of Nelson Island above Tuluksak. This lip is over 2 feet tall from the strong north wind we’ve been having the past couple of days

That’s the report for December 8, 2014

Thank you & safe travel from BSAR

*Please note: this report is for informational purposes only and is not an advisory that it is safe to travel

 

Kalskag High School Students Make Trail Markers out of Local Spruce as Class Fundraiser

Spread the word...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Finished Bundles of Trail Markers (50 per bundle) made from local spruce

Finished Bundles of Trail Markers (50 per bundle) made from local spruce L-R: Reshelle Alexie, Sharla Parka, & Austin Hetherington

 

These students have already made and sold over 1,200 markers for Middle Kuskokwim trail marking this winter and are ready to make more!These students have already made and sold over 1,200 markers for Middle Kuskokwim trail marking this winter and are ready to make more!

Anyone needing trail markers is encouraged to contact mdammeyer@kuspuk.org or call 471-2288

Stapling reflectors on the locally made trail markers

Austin and Reshelle stapling reflectors on the locally made trail markers

12-6-14 Bethel – Kwethluk Trail Marked

Spread the word...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
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

Spread the word...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email

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

Spread the word...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
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

Spread the word...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email

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.