Juneau’s Mendenhall Lake and River flood for the 3rd time this summer

View from Meander Way of Mendenhall River as water levels begin to rise on July 14, 2019.
View from Meander Way of Mendenhall River as water levels begin to rise on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

There was another glacial dam release that dumped a lot of water into Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall River over the weekend. Starting Friday afternoon, water started flowing down from Suicide Basin, a glacially dammed lake located about two miles up from the face of Mendenhall Glacier.

Rick Fritsch with the National Weather Service in Juneau says he went out to Skaters Cabin and the nearby campground to take a look Saturday afternoon.

“The usual places where you see the water creeping in as you’re driving out on Skaters Cabin Road, on the right hand side, you can see it infiltrating in amongst the trees there on the shoreline,” he said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Wow, boy, if I had my kayak, I could paddle right up to the edge of the road’.”

Mendenhall Lake crested at 8.3 feet Saturday evening. That’s above bank full height.

This is at least the third time that both the lake and river flooded this summer. Heavy rains drove up lake levels to 10.2 feet on August 10.

The first glacial dam release of the season, called a jökulhlaup, forced the lake to crest at 11.5 feet on August 1. That’s moderate flood stage, but just short of the record of 12.0 feet.

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