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Hydrologic conditions and hazards in the Kennicott River basin, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Preserve, Alaska

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4296

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Abstract

McCarthy, Alaska, is on the Kennicott River, about 1 mile from the terminus of Kennicott Glacier in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Most visitors to McCarthy and the park cross the West Fork Kennicott River using a hand-pulled tram and cross the East Fork Kennicott River on a temporary footbridge. Outburst floods from glacier-dammed lakes result in channel erosion, aggradation, and migration of the Kennicott River, which disrupt transportation links, destroy property, and threaten life. Hidden Creek Lake, the largest of six glacier-dammed lakes in the Kennicott River Basin, has annual outbursts that cause the largest floods on the Kennicott River. Outbursts from Hidden Creek Lake occur from early fall to mid-summer, and lake levels at the onset of the outbursts have declined between 1909 and 1995. Criteria for impending outbursts for Hidden Creek Lake include lake stage near or above 3,000 to 3,020 feet, stationary or declining lake stage, evidence of recent calving of large ice blocks from the ice margin, slush ice and small icebergs stranded on the lakeshore, and fresh fractures in the ice-margin region. The lower Kennicott Glacier has thinned and retreated since about 1860. The East and West Fork Kennicott River channels migrated in response to changes in the lower Kennicott Glacier. The largest channel changes occur during outburst floods from Hidden Creek Lake, whereas channel changes from the other glacier-dammed lake outbursts are small. Each year, the West Fork Kennicott River conveys a larger percentage of the Kennicott Glacier drainage than it did the previous year. Outburst floods on the Kennicott River cause the river stage to rise over a period of several hours. Smaller spike peaks have a very rapid stage rise. Potential flood magnitude was estimated by combining known maximum discharges from Hidden Creek Lake and Lake Erie outburst floods with a theoretical large regional flood. Flood hazard areas at the transportation corridor were delineated, and possible future geomorphological changes were hypothesized. McCarthy, Alaska, is on the Kennicott River, about 1 mile from the terminus of Kennicott Glacier in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Most visitors to McCarthy and the park cross the West Fork Kennicott River using a hand-pulled tram and cross the East Fork Kennicott River on a temporary footbridge. Outburst floods from glacier-dammed lakes result in channel erosion, aggradation, and migration of the Kennicott River, which disrupt transportation links, destroy property, and threaten life. Hidden Creek Lake, the largest of six glacier-dammed lakes in the Kennicott River Basin, has annual outbursts that cause the largest floods on the Kennicott River. Outbursts from Hidden Creek Lake occur from early fall to mid-summer, and lake levels at the onset of the outbursts have declined between 1909 and 1995. Criteria for impending outbursts for Hidden Creek Lake include lake stage near or above 3,000 to 3,020 feet, stationary or declining lake stage, evidence of recent calving of large ice blocks from the ice margin, slush ice and small icebergs stranded on the lakeshore, and fresh fractures in the ice-margin region. The lower Kennicott Glacier has thinned and retreated since about 1860. The East and West Fork Kennicott River channels migrated in response to changes in the lower Kennicott Glacier. The largest channel changes occur during outburst floods from Hidden Creek Lake, whereas channel changes from the other glacier-dammed lake outbursts are small. Each year, the West Fork Kennicott River conveys a larger percentage of the Kennicott Glacier drainage than it did the previous year. Outburst floods on the Kennicott River cause the river stage to rise over a period of several hours. Smaller spike peaks have a very rapid stage rise. Potential flood magnitude was estimated by combining known maximum discharges from Hidden Creek Lake and Lake Erie outburst floods with

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Hydrologic conditions and hazards in the Kennicott River basin, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Preserve, Alaska
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
96-4296
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1997
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
1 v. (various pagings) :ill., maps ;28 cm. [PGS - 53 p.]