Outside in MN

Northwest Angle ice road is back open for a second winter

A road on a frozen lake fades into the distance.
The Northwest Angle ice road runs for more than 30 miles across Lake of the Woods. This file photo shows the ice road created in early 2021.
John Enger | MPR News file

The slickest way to get from Warroad to the Northwest Angle in far northern Minnesota is back this winter.

It’s a 37-mile ice highway to the northernmost point in the contiguous United States.

This is the second year for the toll ice road that lets people bypass a trip into Canada, or a ride by plane or snowmobile, to reach the Northwest Angle resort community. The area is known for its ice fishing.

"Some people say, ‘Gosh, I feel like I’m on the moon,’ and some people say they think they’re in Antarctica or on the tundra," Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, said of driving the ice road. "It’s big ice. Lake of the Woods is a big lake. That’s all part of the novelty. That’s all part of the feeling."

The ice road was first created last winter, when the Canadian border was closed to nonessential travel from the U.S. amid the pandemic — blocking visitors from reaching the Northwest Angle by road.

A yellow signs against a background of white.
A sign points drivers to the Northwest Angle ice road, which runs from near Warroad, Minn., to the northern shore of Lake of the Woods on Feb. 1, 2021.
John Enger | MPR News file

The border is open again, with some conditions. But Henry said the ice road remains important to the vitality of resorts dependent on visitors.

"Right off the bat there’s some people who don’t have credentials such as passports and such" to pass through Canada, Henry said. "Some people aren’t vaccinated. Some people don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a COVID test. It just makes life easy I guess for lots of people who want to go fishing in the Angle."

A roundtrip pass to use the ice road costs $250 per vehicle. Henry said the endeavor needs that much to break even, given an estimated cost of $1,500 per mile for plowing and other upkeep from now through mid-March, weather-dependent. Crews maintaining the ice road reported Sunday that high winds were causing low visibility and drifting across the route.

The route starts at Springsteel Resort near Warroad, crosses the main part of Lake of the Woods and then branches off to resorts in and near the Northwest Angle.

The speed limit is 20 miles per hour, so it takes about two hours to get from end to end.

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