People looking to go ice fishing at a spectacular but hard-to-reach Minnesota resort near the Canadian border once again have a special way to access the area, but it will cost a pretty penny.
A 37-mile ice highway to reach the Northwest Angle resort community has opened for a second consecutive winter. Using the road, however, comes at a cost of $250 for a round trip, or $650 for a season pass.
Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, said the cost is necessary due to an estimated cost of $1,500 per mile for plowing and other upkeep.
The road takes travelers to the northernmost spot of the contiguous United States. It begins at Springsteel Resort near Warroad, crosses directly over the heart of Lake of the Woods, and then splits off to a number of small resorts near the border.
“Some people say, ‘Gosh, I feel like I’m on the moon,’ and some people say they think they’re in Antarctica or on the tundra,” Henry told Minnesota Public Radio about the experience of driving the ice road. “It’s big ice. Lake of the Woods is a big lake. That’s all part of the novelty. That’s all part of the feeling.”
In most winters, the road is normally not open, but it is available this year for the second consecutive season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, visitors to the Northwest Angle would reach the area by crossing over into Canada on permanent roads, then dropping back down across the border. But because of the pandemic, the Canadian border was closed last winter, leading to the ice road’s creation.
Although the border has opened this winter in some capacity, it remains closed to those who are not vaccinated. The volatility of the pandemic also makes it possible that border restrictions could be re-instituted at any time.
Others interested in reaching the area may not have passports or other credentials.
“Some people aren’t vaccinated. Some people don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a COVID test,” Henry said. “It just makes life easy I guess for lots of people who want to go fishing in the Angle.”
Without the ice road, visitors would be forced to fly by small plane or snowmobile to get to the Northwest Angle.
Officials say the road is completely safe due to the thickness of the ice. Points North Services handles the plowing, which includes checking for safety issues.
“The ice is much better than it was last year,” Brett Alsleben of Points North Services told the Grand Forks Herald. “This year, the least amount of ice we found is 16 inches.”
The road is open during daylight hours or when weather permits. During storms or strong winds, the road will be closed to reduce the possibility of sliding or other driving issues.
Travel time across the 37-mile span is about 2.5 hours, officials said, with speed limits of 25 mph.
Updates on the availability of the road are posted on the Northwest Angle ice road Facebook page.