Pronounced “YO-kel-yawp,” a Jökulhlaup is a large release of water from a lake formed by the glacial damming of a stream (imagine placing a 500 foot ice wall in front of a river!) In our area, Hidden Creek Lake is formed where Hidden Creek runs into the side of the Kennicott Glacier, pooling into a beautiful iceberg-filled lake. Every summer (typically in July), the water in the lake releases when it finds its way into the main, interior plumbing system of the glacier, flowing through the glacier and into the Kennicott River. For our raft guides and other river-runners in town, it’s time to don those drysuits, grab those paddles, and head down to the river.
The glacial outburst flood lasts about 24 hours from start to finish, and river levels can increase as much as 16 feet! Large rapids form at the head of the river, and crowds gather to watch the parade of kayakers, packrafters, and rafters attempting to run the huge, ephemeral rapids. If you find yourself in McCarthy mid-summer, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness this natural phenomenon and join us in cheering those paddlers!
If you haven’t had the chance to witness the fun, enjoy this video of our favorite river-runners!