One of the questions that comes up fairly regularly on Alaska cruise Forums is whether or not the wonderful colours of Emerald Lake are visible early in the season. Often the answers given are wrong, so I’m posting these photographs as an answer, as I know that many members of Cruise Critic in particular visit my Web sites.
May is the month of the greatest changes in the appearance of the lake. Exactly when the ice disappears to reveal the colours of the water varies from year to year, but can generally be described as mid May.
May 7 – with fairly warm temperatures and lots of wind, I thought that the breakup could be within 4-5 days.
May 16 – still lots of very thin ice. Spirit Lake, right across the highway from Emerald Lake, is 90% ice-free, probably because the wind hits it more.
May 20 – ice-free
Spring was very late in 2013, and on May 22 there was still lots of thin ice on the lake (and fresh snow low on the mountains!).
In 2012, the lake still had lots of thin ice on it when I went by on May 17, but was clear on May 19 when this photo was shot.
On May 5, 2011, the ice was still thick enough to hide the colours.
On May 11, 2011, Father Winter made a surprising and unwelcome return visit. I always recommend that people consider about May 20th as the earliest date to come up on a cruise – this is why. While not a frequent occurrence, it does happen. See more photos from this drive here.
On May 5, 2010, the ice was thin and rotten, and the colours could be seen reasonably well. See more photos from this particular drive here.
Once the ice is rotten, a wind will greatly speed up the clearing of the lake, as happened in the days prior to this shot being taken on May 15, 2008. See more photos from this drive here.
The last photo was shot on May 23, 2007. The last week of May commonly brings extremely warm temperatures – over 20°C (68°F), sometimes nearing 30°C (86°F), with the record of 34°C (93°F) being set on May 30, 1983. You can see day-by-day temperatures from May 2011 (or any other month) at Environment Canada, and weather records here. Note that although the weather is different in Whitehorse than it is in Carcross (or Emerald Lake) it’s close enough that the Carcross current and forecast weather from Environment Canada is actually that of Whitehorse.