Ice road crossing on Hay River may be open by end of month

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo On Nov. 18, Joachim Minoza, an employee of K'atlodeeche First Nation, floods the area of the ice crossing between Hay River and the Hay River Reserve.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
On Nov. 18, Joachim Minoza, an employee of K’atlodeeche First Nation, floods the area of the ice crossing between Hay River and the Hay River Reserve.

The ice road across the Hay River – connecting the town and the reserve – is expected to be open before the end of November.

“We started flooding so that we’re hoping to have the ice crossing for cars and light traffic open by the end of the month, which is about normal,” said Peter Groenen, the CEO with K’atlodeeche First Nation. “Usually it opens sometime in November.”

The flooding, which builds up the thickness of the ice, began last week.

“As soon as it is safe, it will be open,” said Groenen.

KFN also tested the ice on Nov. 14 and found it to be nine inches thick in the area of the crossing.

“I was quite surprised the ice was nine inches thick,” said Groenen. “I didn’t think that it would’ve been that thick.”

Although he said, while the weather has been warm, there have been some cold spells.

Each year, the road is created and maintained by the First Nation as a shortcut between the town and the Hay River Reserve.

It allows people to avoid a longer drive to Highway 5 and then across the Pine Point Bridge and into town.

While the ice is thick at the road crossing, Groenen stressed that people should use caution.

“We only tested that part of the river,” he said. “So there could be other parts of the river where it could be much thinner. If you go up by the bridge, there’s open water over there.”

Plus, he said there is open water at other sections of the river.

“We urge people to use caution absolutely,” he said.

Ross Potter, the director of protective services with the Town of Hay River, also urged people to use caution with the ice.

“I wouldn’t say it’s safe yet,” Potter said on Nov. 17. “I know in the town newsletter that was sent out a few days ago I had some recommendations about ice thickness. And people should follow those guidelines before they start crossing the ice.”

Some Hay River residents had been expressing their concern on Facebook after seeing people on the ice, including on snowmobiles.

One resident described going onto the ice as playing Russian roulette.

–Paul Bickford