Visitors headed to one of the dozen fishing resorts in the Northwest Angle will soon be able to drive there – but over the frozen Lake of the Woods and without going through Canada.
The 30-mile road might be the first – and last – time that there will be ever such a road over ice to this remote part of the state.
At this writing, the resorts have been closely watching the ice conditions before opening up the Northwest Angle Guest Ice Road. When ice conditions safely reach an ice depth of about 15 inches, the road will open, said Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism. He anticipates a cold blast this weekend will make a Monday opening a likely bet.
About 120 people live in the Northwest Angle, a part of Minnesota that is separated by Canada by land from the rest of the contiguous U.S. When Canada shut its border to visitors from the U.S. last March, it disconnected the fishing resorts in ‘the Angle’ from a main overland throughway for its US customers.
With widespread vaccine availability not yet a reality, and fearing continued deep losses to their largely tourism economy, Henry said the resorts hatched an idea. They decided to clear an alternative overland route that did not cross an international border, which meant a road that went over the sprawling frozen Lake of the Woods.
The cost per vehicle will range from $120 to 145 roundtrip, depending on the final destination, said Henry. Each mile costs roughly $1500 to maintain. The resorts will rely on income from the road passes and their own pockets for the upkeep. He said the road will also be monitored for safety and ice conditions, and guided caravans are also a possibility.
“Most customers understand the resorts have been struggling due to the pandemic,” Henry said. “In some ways they’re competitors, but in many other ways they’re partners in success to try and help each other out,” he said of this collective effort.
The road entrance is near Springsteel Resort, just north of Warroad, Minnesota. Henry said the hours will be sunrise to sundown. Visitors should check in with their resort destination before making the trip, Henry advised, though you do not need a reservation at a resort in order to access the road.
This story was published on January 15th, 2021.
While COVID-19 is causing resorts to rapidly decline, the start of the fall began earlier. One Greater Minnesota reporter Kaomi Geotz spoke with mom and pop resorts up north about what they’re doing to survive.
This isn’t the first time that Kaomi Goetz has talked about the Northwest Angle. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, she was able to take a bombardier to the Northwest Angle.
Minnesota winters are getting warmer. And that’s worrisome to businesses in the northern part of the state that depend on cold weather, such as dogsledding firms in Ely. One one of the coldest weeks of the year, Kaomi Goetz ventured north to learn more about these global warming concerns.