Cut off from the rest of the United States by Canada, the northwest corner of Minnesota builds a 35 km ice road
The Ice Road crosses Lake of the Woods, offering a lifeline to struggling seaside resorts.
ANGLE INLET, Minnesota – Paul and Karen Colson live 40 miles north of Warroad, Minnesota.
They might as well be on the moon.
“Cut yourself,” said Paul. “Totally, totally. “
Over the past 10 months, the Minnesota husband and wife have been essentially estranged from the rest of the United States.
It was at this point that Canada, seeking to slow the spread of COVID-19, closed its southern border to all but essential travel.
About 40 miles away, a dozen resorts and the roughly 100 residents they support have lost the Canadian highway that provides the only access to the northwest corner of Minnesota.
Summer bookings have evaporated at Jake’s Northwest Angle, the third-generation resort started by Paul’s grandfather.
“Very depressing,” says Karen Colson.
“We had no one at home,” adds her husband.
Some resorts have tried to transport customers by boat, but even this limited effort was made unnecessary by the colder weather.
The owners of the resort needed something bold. They have it now, in the form of a 22 mile ice road cut across the frozen Lake of the Woods.
“I thought it was a little crazy,” Cale Alsleben says as he steers a dented Chevy pickup and rides through a frozen lunar landscape.
Nearby, Cale’s father drives another plow. With no trees, buildings or hills to block the wind, snow removal from ice roads never stops.
But what choice do they have?
“We have to find a way to get customers here,” Cale says.
Two weeks after opening, the Northwest Angle Ice Road brought the northernmost tip of the 48 lower states to life.
The lights are on again in the Colson’s huts, the fish houses are full on the lake, and people come and go from Jerry’s Bar & Restaurant.
All thanks to a 25 mph highway built on 20 inches of ice.
“My wife was very skeptical that I would come here,” said Scott Bushman on his way back to Wisconsin after several days of Angling the Angle.
Scott’s friend Jim VanHerwynen says his wife also had concerns. “When you see the snow plow trucks over there, you feel a little more comfortable,” Jim laughs.
Passage on the ice road requires a round trip permit of $ 145. Season passes are sold for $ 500.
Resort owners, who put the start-up capital for the Ice Road in place, say they aren’t looking to turn a profit, they only cover their initial investment and the costs associated with constant plowing. and the temporary installation of bridges over pressure ridges.
“It’s worth that $ 500 pass,” says Sandy Baumgartner from the passenger seat of her husband’s van as she cruises the ice road to the Angle.
“We have a cabin here and that’s the only way to get there now,” says Sandy’s husband Mike Baumgartner.
The ice will only support Angle’s economy until the spring, but the Colsons will take care of it.
“We have nothing else,” says Paul.
His complex is paid off, but Paul is worried about other homeowners making loan payments.
“Everyone can hang on a little longer,” says Karen.
Ten months after the border closed, the Canadian government still allows permanent residents of the Angle to cross only for basic needs like food and medical care.
The ice road is the lifeline of the angle you’ve dreamed of.
“Sink or swim,” says Paul. “So we keep swimming.”