This Wasn’t the First Act of ‘River Piracy’ to Affect the Yukon’s Biggest Lake
Author: Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News
Canadian geologist John Clague, whose research on Kluane Lake began in 1980, has long believed that the biggest river flowing into the largest lake in the Yukon Territory could be switched off like a faucet.
A decade ago he described how slight changes in the Kaskawulsh Glacier could shrink the Slims River and reshape the future of Kluane, one of the most magnificent and easily accessible lakes in northern Canada, about 500 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
Alaska Highway summer travelers, if they are not in a hurry, marvel at a 40-mile stretch that is among the most magnificent sections of the entire highway, unaware that a dramatic change is taking place.
Clague and six co-authors wrote in Quaternary Research in 2006 that continued retreat of the glacier meant that the short river pumping millions of gallons into Kluane Lake might be choked off at its source.
The glacier scrapes the Continental Divide where a drop of water on one side flows more than 1,500 miles to the Bering Sea, by way of the Yukon River and its tributaries. A drop that falls on the other side travels one-tenth the distance, with a quick descent that ends in the Gulf of Alaska.