The Nushagak River is running low this spring, complicating barge traffic

May 18, 2017

The Nushagak River is at its lowest level in recent memory say residents of Ekwok, Koliganek, and New Stuyahok. Low water could make barge travel impossible and lead to problems with spring fuel delivery.


Kathlene Larson drives a Honda on the riverbed of the Nushagak in Koliganek.
Credit Brianna Nelson

Last winter was cold but dry, and now the small spring runoff is leaving water levels low around Southwest Alaska. Residents along the Nushagak River say the water level is the lowest it’s been in years.

"I don’t know, I have been out here 25 plus years and it is the lowest I have seen it, and everybody I talk to say they have never seen it that low," Richard King of Ekwok said. 

He worries what the low water level could mean later in the summer. 

"There are two concerns," he said. "One is the fuel and one is whether or not the fishing is going to be any good."

Low water can delay or disrupt spring barge runs from Dillingham, including with much needed fuel.

Vitus Energy said they already delayed one barge this year, and another one is on standby. 

"If there is no spring run-off, as it looks like there may not be, then we will have to wait for rain," sales director Mike Poston said. 

Poston said the company has dealt with low water springs before, and knows eventually it will rain enough to run their barges to eager customers up the Nushagak.

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