yukon river freeze-up + one sad truck

november 7 near the ferry landing
Nov 7 near the ferry landing (all photos within 1 km of this bend in the river)

I love watching the Yukon River freeze over in early winter (2nd time for me) because it’s a 2-4 week period of continuous drama. Every morning, the river is going to be completely different. And we all know that after freeze-up the river enters deep-sleep mode, which means no more visible river movement until spring.

It seemed like the ice floes would move forever, but last Thursday I snuck out of work for a walk around 4:00 pm and saw this:

Nov 12
Nov 12 at a shallow bankside spot

Looks pretty solid to me, but I wouldn’t trust it until others who know the river well say it’s okay, because there’s a huge amount of water still flowing, and still flowing fast, beneath this ice crust.

On Friday the 13th I ran into a friend from West Dawson (an idyllic group of homes + self-described shacks on the other side of the river + off the grid, eh). “I came over with Jonathan but the snowmobile ride made me a bit nervous,” she said, slightly wide-eyed. “I’m going to stay in town for a couple of nights before I go back.”

And then on Tuesday, a new story ran around town:

the day after (photo Gord Macrae)

Word is the one front wheel broke through the ice, then the rest slowly cracked and sank as the guys involved tried different rope-and-tow techniques to rescue the pickup.

The rescue was useless. There were no fatalities, thankfully, but man, that’s one sad truck.

This is what it looks like today. The river looks completely safe, but the truck is causing caution. In -22 to -25 C weather, people are sticking to foot/ski/snowmobile/dog travel for now, along a “road” already marked out with orange flag tape by highway workers. (The ice road will follow those flags later.)

Will another rescue attempt be made? Talk in the liquor store lineup: “Will they leave it there until spring? But it would get smashed during break up,” I venture.

“Oh no, Fisheries will want it out,” says the vaguely familiar guy in front of me, I don’t remember his name but I know he also lives westside. He works the 2L bottle of apple cider he’s just paid for into the wide pockets of his navy blue parka for the walk back over the river. “And there’s a fifteen-hundred dollar plow on the front of that thing, they’ll be wanting that. Maybe they’ll try something once the ice road goes in.”

And so, welcome to Dawson’s newest “point of interest” for walks and talks, likely to become the most photographed spot in our little town for the next week or so until we’re all used to it.

this afternoon

3 thoughts on “yukon river freeze-up + one sad truck”

  1. Come springtime and the ice breaks up, the only two reasons to drag that truck out are 1) to see what six months in the Yukon River does to GM pickups; 2) to give the owner’s crying towel a workout. I guarantee the truck won’t be pretty and the towel will need to be big.



    1. Entertaining to see posts come alive again after years! this truck was pulled out about a month into its ice-headache, mostly (so I’m told) as the guy wanted to recover the snowplow attachment he had on the front. plus he had to for enviro reasons. the Yukon River turns into bluffs and fast currents around the corner from this so waiting til spring would be a much more annoying recovery process than what they did, which was chop thru the properly-thickened ice and winch it out.


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