When Rivers Become Ice Roads

Portion of the Mackenzie River in Canada. Landsat 8 image, NASA, captured November 8, 2016.

Portion of the Mackenzie River in Canada. Landsat 8 image, NASA, captured November 8, 2016.

This November 7, 2016 Landsat 8 satellite image shows a portion of the Mackenzie River ice road.  The images shows the river’s East Channel.  The white, snow covered branches of the Mackenzie River are evident in the satellite image.  The green areas are pine tree covered land.  The higher elevations are bathed in golden light from the sun.

Canada’s largest watershed is the Mackenzie River system.  The largest and longest system in Canada, the river is 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles) long and drains into the Arctic Ocean.  During the cold winter months, parts of the river become a ice road that trucks up to 22,000 pounds can navigate.  The 194 kilometers (120 miles) long ice road connects the outposts of  Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk during the winter.

The area is home to caribou, waterfowl, and fish.  It’s also a migration path for reindeer.  The area captured is slightly north of Inuvik, home to 3,000 people.

More: Where trucks drive on the river, NASA.

To get a feel for what ice road driving is like, watch this video taken in February of 2016 as the driver navigates the route:

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