USDA Forest Service warns of thin lake ice

    Photo courtesy of Steven Behrns

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Visitors to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area should use caution as they recreate on or around Mendenhall Lake. The USDA Forest Service does not actively monitor ice thickness or visitors traversing the frozen lake.

     As temperatures shift in the coming weeks, it is critical to be aware of changing lake ice conditions. 

    “We do not recommend anyone take the risk associated with recreating on the ice covering Mendenhall Lake, but if they do, we want to make sure they are aware of the dangers,” said Tristan Fluharty, Juneau District Ranger.

    • Ice thickness and quality vary from one area of the lake to another.
    • Ice is always thinner near flowing water, such as creeks or inlet streams. (i.e. Steep Creek, Nugget Falls).  
    • Icebergs can roll without warning, breaking up ice and creating open water. Hillside rock or snow slides can break up lake ice as well.
    • Areas of damage to lake ice may not be visible.
    • Due to the constant movement of a glacier, ice near the face or terminus is always weaker.  As a result, this area is always an active calving zone.  
    • Calving is the sudden breaking away of ice masses from a larger body.
    • Most reports of people falling through lake ice result from activities near the glacier’s face.
    • Strong currents with poor visibility are prevalent in this area.
    • It is not advised to travel or recreate on any ice over moving or running water.
    • Mendenhall Lake actively flows and feeds into the Mendenhall River.

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