Yukon has a new lake, thanks to a retreating glacier

The area around Kluane Lake continues to change, thanks to the Kaskawulsh glacier. Cultus Bay is now a small lake, separated from Kluane Lake by a wide gravel bar.

Kluane Lake's dropping water level has turned Cultus Bay into a lake

Cultus Bay, now cut off from Kluane Lake by a gravel bar. Kluane Lake's level has dropped this summer, thanks to the retreating Kaskawulsh glacier sending its melt water elsewhere. (Murray Lundberg)

Yukon has lost a river, and now gained a lake, thanks to the retreating Kaskawulsh glacier.

Geologists and hikers first noticed earlier this summer that the Slims River, which for centuries had delivered melt water from the glacier to Kluane Lake, had disappeared — the glacial run-off was now being sent in a different direction.

Now, the level of Kluane Lake has dropped enough to turn the remote Cultus Bay, on the east side of the lake, into Cultus Lake. A narrow channel of water that once connected the bay to the larger lake is gone, exposing a wide gravel bar between the two.

A narrow passage of water once connected Cultus Bay to the larger lake. (CBC)

"The gravel dam is so big that I can't imagine there's any chance that it's going to get breached," said Yukoner Murray Lundberg, who discovered the new lake while exploring a remote back road.

He says Cultus Lake now sits more than a metre above Kluane Lake, and is "swimmable."

"It's several degrees warmer than Kluane is," he said.

Hydrologists have estimated that Kluane Lake's water level could permanently drop by more than a metre because of the glacier's retreat.

With files from Vic Istchenko


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