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Glacial river dries up near Yukon-B.C. border


Glacier run-off.
Glacier run-off.

Jill Colton, staff writer

September 2, 2011 — A glacier river straddling the Yukon-British Columbia border is now barren.

An aerial view of what the dried-up Sloko Inlet looks like. Courtesy - Diana Thayer
An aerial view of what the dried-up Sloko Inlet looks like. Courtesy - Diana Thayer

The normally fast-running waterway has been turned into a mud field sprinkled with melting icebergs.

“We were able to walk right into the river bed and stand among the 60-foot icebergs that are grounded now,” said Diana Thayer of Atlin, B.C.

She came across the withered up river when she was hiking near the Llewellyn Glacier along the Sloko Inlet trail.

She related the scene to that of “a plug that had been pulled on a bathtub.”

The glacier was part of the Juneau Icefield, which used to flow into Atlin Lake at Sloko Inlet and Llewellyn Inlet. The frigid meltwater is no longer since the Sloko source is officially dried up.

Massive melting icebergs. Courtesy - Diana Thayer
Massive melting icebergs. Courtesy - Diana Thayer

According to Thayer, Atlin Lake -- British Columbia's largest natural lake -- has dropped what looks to be around 50 feet and is still draining.

Thayer's neighbour, John Lyons, couldn't resist seeing the site for himself. Although he said the “photographs were spectacular,” the scene was shocking from an environmental perspective.

“You see where the bergs had been dragged along the bottom and you could see the drag marks in the mud from all the various icebergs.”

There's a chance an ice bridge has dammed Sloko Inlet, forcing the meltwater into Llewellyn Inlet. But at this point, the scenery has definitely changed. ““The maps will have to be redrawn a bit because there's no more river there,” Lyons said.

Icefield researchers made another interesting discovery in the area. Normally dry walking trails to the Llewellyn Inlet were flooded with chest-deep water.

With files from CBC and Diana Thayer

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