Hubbard Glacier, the largest calving glacier on the North American Continent (25 percent larger than Rhode Island), advanced across the entrance to 35-mile-long Russell Fiord during June 2002, temporarily turning it into a lake. Hubbard Glacier has been advancing for more than 100 years and has twice closed the entrance to Russell Fiord during the last 16 years by squeezing and pushing submarine glacial sediments across the mouth of the fiord Water flowing into the cutoff fiord from mountain streams and glacier melt causes the level of Russell Lake to rise. However both the 1986 and 2002 dams failed before the lake altitude rose enough for water to spill over a low pass at the far end of the fiord and enter the Situk River drainage, a world-class sport and commercial fishery near Yakutat, Alaska.

2002 Russell Fiord Closure Updates

8/20/02 - for a brief description of the 2002 closure, lake rise, and outburst with a photo series, click here.

8/16/2002 - Second-Largest Glacial Flood Worldwide in Historic Times Occurs as Russell Lake Glacier Dam Ruptures - USGS News Release

Figure 1. Hubbard Glacier and Russell Fiord study area.

6/25/2002 - Although, the physical closure of Russell Fiord is incomplete, fresh water from rain, glacier melt, and runoff is entering the fiord faster than it can flow out through the narrow channel between Hubbard Glacier and the land to the southwest of the terminus. Therefore, Russell Fiord is now technically a lake a little above sea level and connected to the sea by a very short river. The rising level of Russell Lake is being recorded by a stage recorder installed on June 23, 2002 at Marble Point in Russell Lake (about 4.5 miles south east from the near-closure site). Real-time data from the gage is available at USGS station #15130000. At the time of installation, the water level was already above sea level and rising by about foot per day.

6/18/2002 - Advancing Glacier Coming Close to Blocking Fiord Near Yakutat, Alaska,
USGS News Release (photos available)

Tours to the Hubbard Glacier:

  • Alsek Air Service

  • Yakutat Charters

  • Yakutat Charter Boat Co

Above info from USGS.

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PO Box 510
Yakutat, AK 99689



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