I am a gambling man through and through. I have bet my share of football games, horse races, cards, little round balls and thrown dice.
But only in Alaska can you bet and win a fortune on when the ice in the Tanana River will break up.
It is called the Nenana Ice Classic
Science and Mother Nature
The Tanana River usually freezes over during the months of October and November. The ice continues to get thicker through the winter with the average thickness being 42’ on April 1st.
Depending on the temperature, snow cover, wind and other factors of Mother Nature, the ice will freeze slightly more and then start to melt in early spring. The ice melts from both top to bottom due to the weather and water flow.
In early April a tripod is planted two feet into the Tanana River between the highway bridge and the railway bridge at Nenana, just upriver from the Nenana River tributary.
The tripod is placed 300 feet from shore and connected to a clock that stops when the ice goes out.
In 1917 railroad engineers bet $800 bucks guessing when the river would break up. Last year, in the Classic’s 94th year, the winners shared prize money of $279,300. Over $11 million has been paid out during the past 94 years. This years pay off will be made June 1st.
Tickets are sold throughout Alaska from February 1st through April 5th. A guess costs $2.50.
The way you play is you guess the Month, the date, the hour (1-12), and the minute (00-59) on when you think the break up will occur.
The tripod is connected to a wire that is connected to a clock in a tower on shore. When the tripod moves it engages the clock to stop and the winner is the time on the clock.
Some winning times in years past…
1940: April 20 at 3:27 PM. The earliest on record
1971: May 8 at 9:31 PM
1992: May 14 at 6:26 AM
1994: April 29 at 11:01 PM
1997: April 30 at 10:28 AM
1964: May 20 at 11:41 Am. The latest on record
If you hurry you can get your tickets and be a part of Alaskan history.