Wrangell Mountain Air
Flying Wrangell-St. Elias National Park since 1992
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Journal

Journal entries by Wrangell Mountain Air staff and friends sharing fun flight adventures, backcountry explorations, discoveries, memories, and local news.

It's Jökulhlaup Time

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It’s an exciting glaciological time in the Kennicott Valley today!

Each summer water from Hidden Creek dams up against the west side of the Kennicott Glacier forming the ever-deeper Hidden Lake. Around late June or early July, the lake breaks loose and rushes under the glacier raising the Kennicott River. This phenomenon is called a “jökulhlaup,” a word whose origin is Icelandic. A quick flight over to the Fosse airstrip and visitors can hike to the drained Hidden Lake and play around on the icebergs leftover after the draining.

Seen here, is Hidden Lake two days ago on one of our flights in the valley. After weeks of watching the lake fill on our Chitina flights, our pilots got to see it in its early stages of draining yesterday and are admiring the beaching icebergs as the lake level plummets!

 

Meanwhile, back at the footbridge, the locals are thrilled about the high river levels. Watch this video as a thrill seeker jumps boat-first off the foot bridge! The water is higher than it has been in years since it was already rocking with the crazy-hot weather we’ve had for the past weeks. There never seems to be a shortage on excitement in this valley, but occasionally, there’s a little spike in exhilaration, as seen here.

It’s a great McCarthy event with music, dancing, and watching pack rafters brave the raging waters.

 
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This event hasn’t just occurred in summers; it has happened three times in recent winters, including this past January. The winter events are a bit mysterious and some locals predicted, this spring, that the occurrence of a jökulhlaup this past winter might mean a smaller amount of water released this summer. However, that’s not been the case, as seen in the above video. This photo was taken by a wintertime local during the January jökulhlaup.

Well, there you have it. Come on out here quick and enjoy the rattling footbridge for yourself… the water’s still high for another few hours!

Shannon Robel