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DNR: Stay Off Ice Near St. Croix Bridge Construction

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The winter months bring many snowmobilers, ice anglers and other winter sports enthusiasts to the St. Croix River.

But this year, they’re finding that there’s one area that’s off limits.

For Guthrie Pritchard, the icy surface of the St. Croix River creates the perfect terrain for four wheels and a sled.

“It’s fun and I can pull my friends around, and I can throw myself off and wipe out,” Pritchard said.

He’s among the many that choose the St. Croix for its trails, which are unique among others in the metro.

“In the winter, you can drive the river and there’s no real obstacles,” he said.

DNR officer Amber Peterson says people love the St. Croix because it’s the “great wide open.” But this winter, the river poses a risk near the new bridge construction site.

“They’re doing bridge work, and around it they’re breaking up the ice all winter long,” Peterson said.

As construction crews work on the overpass through the cold weather months, the ice is too thin to withstand the weight of four wheels, or even two legs.

“The ice is very unpredictable. With barges and channels and the current going through, it’s very hard for solid ice to form,” she said. “And especially now that we add this in to the mix.”

In the daylight, broken ice and open water are easy to see. But the real worry is at night, when the danger isn’t as easily spotted.

“That’s the major concern, especially if there’s any alcohol involved. If snowmobilers are going up the river, they need to use extreme caution in this area,” Peterson said.

The DNR has not been called to any rescues near the new bridge this year.

Around the state, eight vehicles have broken through the ice, but there haven’t been any fatalities.

Peterson says a good way to stay on top of ice conditions in your area is to check in with your local marina or bait shop.

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