Ice Dam Can Break On Kennicott River, Causing Rapid Flooding, Says NPS

  Use Care On Streams and Rivers     During High-Water Event on the Kennicott River   The Copper Mill (Photo, Journal archives)  COPPER CENT...

 Use Care On Streams and Rivers  
During High-Water Event on the Kennicott River 

The Copper Mill (Photo, Journal archives) 

COPPER CENTER, AK – Early morning on July 10th, the Kennicott River reached very high levels and volume, according to a U.S. Geologic Survey gauge at the Kennicott River bridge. A brief advisory by the National Weather Service was released to recommend that residents and recreationalists in the area use caution with high water. Water levels have dropped, but danger is still evident for boaters and recreationalists that may be on the Kennicott River or downstream rivers and streams, such as the Chitina and Copper Rivers.  


The high-water event is an annual Hidden Creek Lake outburst flood, called a jökulhlaup (an Icelandic word pronounced yo-KOOL-lahp). The Hidden Creek Lake is created as water builds up in the area where it meets the Kennicott Glacier. For the outburst flood to occur, the lake must breach its dam and drain catastrophically when it either causes its ice dam to float or causes large meltwater channels beneath the glacier ice to burst and drain rapidly.This type of event causes flooding at the Kennicott River, and other downstream waterways.  


The rivers of Wrangell-St. Elias offer a remote, backcountry experience, but require extreme caution due to the cold, glacially fed waters. Hypothermia is a danger even after a brief submersion, regardless of air temperature. Always wear a drysuit and a personal floatation device (PFD). High water from the jökulhlaup, and an increase in water levels from recent warm temperatures may also create hazards for backcountry travelers. Knowing how to cross rivers safely is essential for wilderness travel. Remember to choose the safest time to cross, choose the safest place and method to cross, protect your feet, prepare to get wet, and be prepared to respond in the case of an emergency. Please use caution and care when boating or recreating on or near the Kennicott, Chitina, or Copper Rivers, as well as other streams and rivers in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. 

For additional information, check the park website at or call the visitor center at (907) 822-7250.


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