“107 Miles and Counting” BSAR Holiday Kuskokwim River Update:*

by Bethel Search and Rescue

12.24.18 Summary:

With a full two weeks of cold weather and the great need for cheaper, more efficient transportation in our region, the lower sections of the Kuskokwim Ice Road were quickly established over the past few days. There are now approximately 107 miles of ice road connecting several thousand People in 11 communities from the Johnson River villages upstream as far as Akiak. These early season ice roads however are very preliminary. Most are not marked or only lightly marked.Over the weekend BSAR members traveled over these first ice roads. This is what they observed:

•The only section of road that is fairly well marked is from Bethel to Napakiak.

•The rest of the roads have little marking or have only been lightly staked by the crews that established them—to be filled in later as the roads become more defined.

•There are two truck roads leading upstream from Bethel. One is through Straight Slough across to the Church Slough Short Cut then into Church Slough. This route had ice only 7” thick 3 days ago and has sharp narrow turns.

•The safer route is around Joe Pete’s Bend and right into the mouth of Church Slough but few travelers are using this route.

•The road to the Johnson River uses Napakiak Slough. Go into the village and then go down to the slough just before the old blue Corporation Store. DO NOT DRIVE RIGHT INTO THE MOUTH—LOTS OF SHELL ICE.

•Ice thickness in the Johnson River runs from 14” to 22”. Most areas range around 18”. There is one unusual de-tour due to a rough area—see map 

Preliminary Markers in the Johnson River are up to 1 Mile Apart—Bad Weather Travel Not Recommended.

The Road Crossing Nunvaknaq Lake. The Lake has less than 12” of water left until the ice reaches the bottom. Ice averaged about 18” along the lake crossing.


We’ve been blessed with the cold weather greatly improving travel conditions for our People throughout the region just in time for the holiday season.

Our job now is get things fully marked, assist with continuing to expand the Kuskokwim Ice Road network, and continual monitoring of conditions. As a final note to this report: there is quite a bit more snow on the River above Bethel. The next time it snows and blows we will see the smaller vehicles getting stuck. Please travel prepared and carry a shovel.

Happy Holidays & Safe Travels to All! 

From Bethel Search & Rescue

*Please Note: this report is not an advisory that it its safe to travel. It is for informational purposes only