Taku River turns cold, runs fast after glacial dam release in the Juneau Icefield

Aerial view of the Taku River basin. (Creative Commons photo by Lee LeFever)

A glacial dam release in the Juneau Icefield caused the Taku River to swell over the holiday weekend.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory on July 4 when a river gauge at the Canadian border showed water levels rapidly rising.

The river peaked at about 2 o’clock the next morning.

Senior hydrologist Aaron Jacobs said water temperatures dropped and river flow doubled from 40,000 to 80,000 cubic feet per second.

“There’s a lot of debris coming down the river, a lot of logs. There can be some icebergs that come down,” Jacobs said. “So, it can be treacherous during these events along the Taku River. People who do live around there are definitely aware of these events and I think they take their precautions when events are ongoing.”

Jacobs said there were no reports of damage or injuries from cabin owners or anyone recreating along the Taku River.

There have been glacial dam releases — called jökulhlaups — into the Taku River in previous years. Jacobs says they’re usually caused by the frequent damming of Lake No Lake by the Tulsequah Glacier.

Jacobs said this release was a little smaller than previous ones and a second release this summer is still likely.

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Matt Miller is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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