River Watch: Ice Still Jammed At Birch Crossing; Ice Movement Through Kalskag

May 4, 2018

A stretch of the Kuskokwim River between Kwethluk and Akiak, posted on May 4, 2018. Breakup is unfolding more slowly this year due to milder temperatures.
Credit Courtesy of Mike Riley.

The Kuskokwim River should be mostly clear within the next two weeks, but in the meantime, residents should be careful.

"I know folks are anxious to get on with summer and get on with your boats," said Celine Van Breukelen, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. "And a lot of times you will see no ice in front of your village and you think it’s safe to go boating when really it’s not. There’s still a lot of intact ice from Aniak to Akiak."

This breakup is taking longer than usual due to the spring’s mild temperatures, said Van Breukelen. "I’m used to doing this with sunglasses on and bright blue skies," she said, "and it’s been a little bit different."

The ice is still jammed at Birch Crossing downstream from Aniak, she said, causing flooding in low-lying areas. There’s some ice movement between Birch Crossing through Kalskag, though the ice near Tuluksak is mostly in place. The ice is shifting quite a bit near Napaskiak and Akiak, and there are long stretches of open water from Bethel all the way to the Y where the Kuskokwim and Kuskokuak channels split.

One good thing about this year’s long mush-out? There hasn’t been any catastrophic flooding.

Van Breukelen said that the rain forecasted for later this week will help shift the Kuskokwim’s remaining sheets of ice, and temperature highs in the mid-50s next week will help flush out whatever’s left.