Kuskokwim River Mushes Out

by Ben Matheson on May 2, 2014

The Kuskokwim River is rapidly mushing out. The ice is breaking, pushing, and moving in front of Bethel. The Alaska River Watch team flew a stretch up to Kalskag and down to the Johnson river Friday afternoon.

The main break up front is about 20 miles upstream of Tuluksak. Broken ice was moving heavily through the Coffees Bend region, there were reports of ice running today near Napaimute.

Kuskokwim and Gweek Rivers on 5/2/14 . Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Kuskokwim and Gweek Rivers on 5/2/14 . Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.


Closer the Bethel, what ice is left, is greatly weakened. Celine van Breukelen is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

“Between Bethel and heading upstream towards the Akaichak and Kuskokokuak channels, those are both ice free. The section of ice between a little downstream of Akiak to Tuluksak is still in place,” said van Breukelen.

And as for ice below Bethel in the Napaskiak-Napakiak-Oscarville area:

Napakiak on 5.2.14. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Napakiak on 5.2.14. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.


“There’s numerous opens spots, in it, you can see that quality of the ice is really degraded. The ice downstream of Napakiak has moved out in the last 24 hours,” said van Breukelen.

Upriver, past Tuluksak, Van Breukelen and George Coyle from the state of Alaska pointed out from the air what had changed.

“You see that pressure ridge there on the right? We’re getting the push. That wasn’t there yesterday!,” said Coyle.

Pressure ridges above Tuluksak. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Pressure ridges above Tuluksak. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.


Van Breukelen explains more:

“We’ve seen more pressure ridges and evidence of upstream ice pushing on downstream ice and staring the process of moving that ice downstream,” said van Breukelen.

Akiak on 5.2.14. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

Akiak on 5.2.14. Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK.

“So far it’s been very much of a mush out. The ice isn’t nearly strong enough, so by the time the push of water hits it, it degrades and moves out with very little incident, that’s what we’ve seen so far this year.”

River Watch plans another flight tonight and another Saturday morning. They will issue reports from the air on VHF channel 68.

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