Breakup nearly complete along Kenai River

Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2000

In little more than a week, the Kenai River has shed most of its winter-long accumulation of ice.

"It seems to be progressing well," said Scott Lindsey, senior hydrologist with the River Forecast Center in Anchorage. "I talked to our observer at Kenai Keys on Monday and he said he observed ice in place the middle of last week, but when he checked on Saturday, the main channel was clear as far as he could see."

The Kenai River in Cooper Landing was open, though Kenai Lake remained predominantly frozen.

"The river didn't freeze over much this winter. I don't think it was cold enough, long enough," said Cathy Leaders of the Kenai Princess Lodge. "But it's frozen over across the lake and people are out on it."

While people are still on the frozen lake, Leaders said the river is already in use.

"People have floated the river already," she said. "A couple of kids who run rafts in the summer took their kayaks down it."

But between the head of the river and its mouth, the ice conditions are still somewhat of a mystery to the river center.

"Our observer did report on Sunday and Monday that he had seen some four- to five-foot chunks of ice, and that may have been from the downstream mouth of Skilak Lake breaking up," Lindsey said. "The warm temperatures the last couple of weeks have really caused a lot of ice to rot."

The river level is at its yearly low right now, with all but one channel dried up below the Kenai Princess Lodge.

"The Kenai is largely a glacial-fed system, and this is about the low point for glacial contribution," Lindsey said.

Lindsey said the Kenai, and all the rivers in Southcentral, have been rated average as far as flood potential goes this spring.

"That means if it normally doesn't flood, it probably won't," he said.

He said that the Kenai is not usually prone to the ice jam flooding that is found on larger rivers like the Yukon and Kuskokwim.

"But there is always a potential for snowmelt flooding," he said. "The scenario for snowmelt flooding is a cool spring with a large snowpack and a rapid warmup."

Lindsey said there was a "decent" amount of snow in the Kenai River drainage.

"But whether it floods depends on the weather over the next several weeks."

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