Driving on an ice road: Do you feel lucky?

It was a short lifespan for an extension of County Road H in Bayfield, Wisconsin yesterday. The Ice Road, connecting Bayfield with Madeline Island on Lake Superior, opened to light trucks and cars yesterday. But overnight, cracks in the road developed and officials have closed it while trying to fill low spots.

Back in the day — 2008 when this video was filmed — the Ice Road was quite the tourist attraction…

But for many, driving on any ice road may involve whether you feel lucky or not.

It’s all a matter of ice thickness and how much weight you’re trying to support. Here’s the Army Corps of Engineers guide on these things:

Required Minimum Ice
Thickness in inches
Description of
Safe Moving Load
1-3/4 One person on skies
2 One person on foot or skates
3 One snowmobile
3 A group of people walking single file
7 A single passenger automobile
8 A 2-1/2 ton truck
9 A 3-1/2 ton truck
10 A 7 to 8 ton truck

On the Bayfield Wisconsin Facebook page, someone asked how many cars have gone through the ice when the ice road was officially open. “None,” the curator replied, “except for the person who tried to move a house across it.”


The road will be closed all day today. It may be open tomorrow.

  • andy

    I used to live in Ashland, WI many years ago. I never had the nerve to drive the ice road. I did walk it however, hearing the ice crack and feeling the movement while cars and trucks drove by was a bit unnerving. Thanks for sparking a cool memory Bob!

  • Bob

    I live on the island. The ice road is our link to the world. When newspapers publicize our road it gets more traffic than it can handle. The road closed not because it got warm but because too much traffic caused it to crack up.

    I understand you are the news and it is your job to report. But I am telling you everyone on Madeline Island hates when the road is publicized. Many Islanders missed the opportunity to cross and get groceries and supplies all while a bunch “tourists” got to drive across for fun.

    If you must write about the ice road talk about how important it is to us locals, and how driving slow, really slow like 15 mph will greatly increase the lifespan of the road. 25 mph is the worst speed for breaking up ice!

  • Bob Collins

    // But I am telling you everyone on Madeline Island hates when the road is publicized.

    You want to direct your ire to the Madeline Island Ferry Line and the city of Bayfield, both of whom have been talking about it on Facebook.

    I didn’t write about it until after it was already closed.