Yukon River breakup breaks records

When the ice broke on the Yukon River Saturday records were broken along with it. In a tradition that stretches back about 120 years, Dawson City residents place annual bets on when the ice will start to move on the river.

When the ice broke on the Yukon River Saturday records were broken along with it.

In a tradition that stretches back about 120 years, Dawson City residents place annual bets on when the ice will start to move on the river.

This year the ice officially broke April 23, at 11:15 a.m., knocking five days off the previous record from April 28, 1940.

That’s the earliest the ice has broken in Dawson since records began in 1896.

This year’s winner, Brian Stethem, made a near-perfect guess. He was off by one minute, said organizer Joyce Caley, and he walked away with $4,340.

The ice pool in Dawson is the oldest one in the world, said Paul Robitaille, marketing and events manager with the Klondike Visitors Association.

Each year a tripod with a clock is set up on the ice about 100 feet from shore over the strongest part of the river.

A cord hanging from the tripod detects when the ice breaks and cuts power to the clock.

It’s a step up from how things used to run, according to Caley.

“Everyone who was living there used to dump their garbage on the ice and when they saw it moving that was the origin of the ice pool, I think.”

A local Dawson charity, the IODE, took on running the ice pool some time in the ‘40s.

Half the money raised each year goes to the winner of the pool and the other half goes to the charity.

The IODE donates to different causes each year. They aim to help those in need, improve education and promote good citizenship, Caley said.

In the past money has been given to a literacy camp in the summer or used to fill Christmas hampers, she said.

She didn’t know where this year’s money was headed.

Contact Ashley Joannou at


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