Mackenzie River discharge and bathymetry effects on sea ice in the Beaufort Sea are examined in 2012 when Arctic sea ice extent hit a record low. Satellite-derived sea surface temperature revealed warmer waters closer to river mouths. By 5 July 2012, Mackenzie warm waters occupied most of an open water area about 316,000 km2. Surface temperature in a common open water area increased by 6.5°C between 14 June and 5 July 2012, before and after the river waters broke through a recurrent landfast ice barrier formed over the shallow seafloor offshore the Mackenzie Delta. In 2012, melting by warm river waters was especially effective when the strong Beaufort Gyre fragmented sea ice into unconsolidated floes. The Mackenzie and other large rivers can transport an enormous amount of heat across immense continental watersheds into the Arctic Ocean, constituting a stark contrast to the Antarctic that has no such rivers to affect sea ice.