Glacier Kettles

Once you step onto a glacier it becomes apparent just how immense the intricacies of ice can be. Ice features specific to glaciers like seracs, moraine, ice falls, and much more, offer exposure into the cause and effects of a glaciers natural movements. It is both chaotic and beautiful. And one of our favorite features amongst the hallmark arts of Alaskan ice are kettle ponds, sometimes known as kettle lakes.

What is a Kettle Pond?

Glaciers like the Matanuska, have kettle ponds near the toe of the glacier. You will find kettle ponds and lakes along valley and sometimes alpine glaciers. This is because as these glaciers melt, giant ice fins fall, crashing and making depressions in the earth below, and overtime, slowly melt away. After a whole lot of sun and warm temperatures, we are left to explore the meltwater ponds and lakes left behind.

As the warm season moves along the meltwater in these small pots becomes its own individual water system. Undisturbed by fresh and frigid meltwater coming from the glacier nearby. Since the ground and surrounding sediment are fully saturated already, the water is held in the pond and gradually warmed by the sun, hence they create a sort of “kettle” heating system for the water.

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Exploring Kettle Ponds

Thinking of diving into a kettle pond this summer? If so, there are a few things to consider before diving in head first, literally and figuratively. Below are some of our pro tips and tricks.

Find the Right Group

Make sure to find yourself a tour that is willing to let you take the plunge out on the glacier. Companies like MICA Guides are well versed in helping you achieve these dreams. You can even collaborate with them on a private trip and contact them by clicking here. Sometimes after a trekking tour, a dip in the kettle ponds is well deserved.

Have the Right Gear

If you are ready to dip your toes into the glacial water then it is important to note that there are lots of folks exploring that section of the glacier. So having a swimsuit or shorts on under your normal dress might offer the privacy you need to jump on in. Another option is to schedule a private tour and have the professionals take you to a more secluded and private space.

Remember to Breathe

Depending on the season, you might need to remind yourself to breathe, and deeply once you hit the water. It is great for resetting and calming your nervous system, and that doesn’t come without the jolt. If you happen to be enjoying the tropical glacier season than breathing is equally as important if you want to lay back and float across the water.

Beware of Hazards

With any adventure, comes risk. So, beware that kettle ponds need some consideration too. There is very slick mud, and thixotropic mud, which can act like a quick sand if not recognized and properly navigated. Another hazard to be weary of are rocks and boulders. The water in kettle ponds are typically silty, with little to no visibility. Wearing water shoes and entering gently can help to prevent unnecessary injury.

Kettle ponds offer beautiful views, mirrors to the surrounding grandeur, and an opportunity to explore. So if you are up to take the plunge, slide right on into a glacier kettle pond. And, enjoy the experience with an element of geological history.