Ice Roads, Getting the Job Done in the Northwoods

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Ice Roads, Getting the Job Done in the Northwoodsice road

We are often asked, how do you get machinery into my remote property with equipment for logging and construction.

The answer is an age old technique used in the Northern States, we make an Ice Road.

We have been having a pretty good winter this year, which is great for people who have a lot of work to do in the Northwoods.

Cold weather can be a blessing for hard working Northerners who need to get into remote areas far from roads, such as loggers or carpenters who are working on remote cabins.

A deep frost can be very good and very bad depending on what you are working on.

clearing snow from ice roadCold weather is hard on pipes and foundations and we often have to pile additional snow onto areas of the yard over buried water pipes and sewer lines to keep them from freezing.

It is good for ice fishing, although it doesn’t take much for enough ice to form on the lakes to drive out there and go fishing.

And it is Great for those of us who work out in the woods.

It allows us to get into all of the areas that are off limits most of the year and in years when we don’t get enough frost or when there is too much snow for the frost to penetrate into the ground.

Nature provides plenty of roads, but most of them involve crossing and traveling along swamps, lakes and rivers.  Many of the swamps and rivers take a bit to get properly frozen. The swamps have rotting organic matter keeping them warm from below and rivers have water currents keeping them warm from below.traveling on ice roads

Some years we get low temperatures but too much snow which can be a problem because all of the pockets of air in the snow make it work like a big old insulating blanket on the surface of the ground.

Deep snow’s insulating value is great to keep your pipes from freezing, but it gets to be a problem out in the woods when you need to make a winter road for hauling trucks and other equipment.

There have been many times when we had too much snow and needed to make a winter road and it took over a week and various machines to get the job done. 

large ice road on a riverFirst we go in with snowmobiles to pack down the snow in an effort to get most of the air out of the snow.  Then we wait a few nights for the frost to soak through the snow and freeze the soil a bit.

Next, after checking to make sure we have a few inches of frozen ground, we go in with a small skidsteer and remove the packed snow, and then we wait a few more nights.

Now we have a good solid road where we can haul almost anything, as long as we continue to keep the snow plowed off every time nature provides a new blanket.

This year is shaping up to be a good one for getting some work done in the woods so get your projects done before spring melts natures roads.




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  1. Robin Wells 01/17/2017 03:26 AM
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Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

We went for a hike in the woods yesterday; I appreciated the frozen ground because it meant the areas that were normally swampy were easier to traverse.

I can see there would be advantages to winter snow/ice cover.

Jan 17, 2017 03:50 AM #1
James Dray
Fathom Realty AR LLC - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Good morning Bob.  Exactly why I live just a little south.  SO far no snow or ice however, just one county north, they are getting hammered with ice.  I know the snow is coming but so far so good. I never knew about the process of making those ice packed roads.  Thanks for the education this morning

Jan 17, 2017 03:54 AM #2
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
Realty National - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Yup! Bob Crane Ice Road Truckers is one of my favorites when I want to unwind from a tough day. Amazing stuff!

Jan 17, 2017 06:04 AM #3
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty & Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

Bob Crane this was an interesting article. We don't normally get enough snow to utilize this technique but we sure could have used it this year!

Jan 17, 2017 07:09 AM #4
Dianne Goode
Raleigh Cary Realty - Raleigh, NC

How fascinating!  An ice road -- I had no idea.  Well, I'm from Florida.  It never came up!

Jan 17, 2017 08:22 AM #5
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

We've got freezing rain on the way, and ice roads aren't very friendly for us. We're being told to stay off the roads. 

Jan 17, 2017 09:43 AM #6
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

I am getting to one area that is a bit dicey for warm winters, but with the warm weather we are to get again I will be re-thinking that area.

Some great dead wood there but not if I geet stuck in the mud.

Jan 17, 2017 03:11 PM #7
Sally Crane
WMS - Unity, WI
Woodland appraisal support.

Ice roads, great and very usefel for the right place and time.  However, I'm glad there aren't any around here come July.

Jan 17, 2017 09:10 PM #8
Mark Don McInnes, Sandpoint
Sandpoint, ID
North Idaho Real Estate - 208-255.6227

Top of the morning Bob.  Informative post with great pics.  Mark

Jan 18, 2017 12:59 AM #9
Sondra Meyer:
Star View Real Estate - Colorado Springs, CO
See It. Experience It. Live It.

Coming from Texas, I didn't grow up around snow. Ice fishing is something that I've only seen on TV. Now that I live on the front Range in Colorado, I'm trying to teach myself that it is ok to drive in the snow. I still find myself disappointed that everything doesn't get shut down and canceled when it snows. So, I am awed that there are a lot of positive things that can be done when it snows.

Granted....I'll probably never move to WI because of the winters.

Jan 18, 2017 08:48 PM #10
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Really, staying safe is the most important part of all of this. May the weather be in your favor.

Jan 18, 2017 11:54 PM #11
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Icefishing is also very interesting in Alaska and you guys should check it out sometime. Sondra Meyer:

Jan 18, 2017 11:55 PM #12
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