It’s a common sight in winter to see snowmobiles criss-crossing the canal once the water freezes, but this year there are unusual dangers associated with the activity. The City of Houghton suggests that you stay on the designated trail system, which features a crossing on the lower level of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.
If you must be on the water on your sled, municipal officials suggest staying at least 200 feet from the southern shore from the Downtowner east to Dee Stadium. Ongoing pier construction has kept the ice from forming in a stable way. Barges and heavy equipment crowd the area. If you get too close you risk going through the thin, frozen layer that exists nearby the machinery.
The pier was delayed from 2020 due to state funds being shifted to COVID-19 relief. By the time it was reapproved last year, costs had gone up substantially. Eventually the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the City of Houghton were able to find a way to keep the pier alive, but delays in final approval meant that construction work did not start until August. To complete the project by this summer, driving sheet pile and other preliminary work has continued through the winter season.