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When the Kenai Lake ice parted

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: July 7, 2016
  • Published January 21, 2011

When a big jolt rocked Kenai Lake on Wednesday, Irene Lindquist, a technician with the U.S. Forest Service, just happened to be out for a lunch-hour skate on the lake ice.

"It scared me quite a bit,'' she said.

Earthquakes are common in the corner of Alaska, but this wasn't an earthquake. This was a pressure ridge in the ice of the 25 mile long long lake breaking open. A crack of open water several feet wide opened near the east end of the lake. It had expanded to six feet by Thursday.

It has made Lindquist, who works at the Forest Service's Moose Pass work center, a little nervous about the skating. After the shaking, popping and cracking of ice stopped on Wednesday, she wrote in an e-mail, "I skated along the shore then tried to take the shortest way back to the work center. I discovered a four-foot wide opening that ran from the Trail River outlet to Black Mountain (and) some areas were even wider."

Photo courtesy Irene Lindquist
Pressure ridges like this one on Kenai Lake can occur even after long stretches of cold weather, and create a danger backcountry adventurers should be wary of.

Lindquist said there was what appeared to be a patch of solid ice about 15 feet wide spanning one stretch of open water, but she chose not to test it.

"I opted to go back to shore and cross on the sorta frozen Trail River instead,'' she said.

A snow-short January on the Kenai and in the Anchorage area has caused many skaters to get out and explore the smooth ice of lakes, rivers and even some marshes. The breakup at Kenai Lake is a reminder there are some dangers.

Experienced backcountry skaters always carry ice picks around their necks just in case. A skater on Kodiak has already gone through thin ice and died this winter.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)

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