Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

Exploring the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area: Wible Hydraulic Flume


Location:    Mile 54  Large turn-out

Turn into Large Pull-off on the East Side of Road

Short Description: Visuals of this are very subtle, however, it provides a good overview of how hydraulic mining achieved the necessary head pressure.

Required Equipment: None

Suggested Equipment: Binoculars might be handy

Safety Consideration: None

Other Info:

  • Low Clouds will obscure view of flume
  • Interpretative panels explain flume
  • Note other geologic features



Inquiry Prompts:  What’s Going On Here?


Prompt students to look REALLY hard for something that just doesn’t “look” right. Something that doesn’t quite look natural. Need more help? Look at the alders on the far side of hill… anything yet? Maybe someone will point out some sections of alders that grow in a thin tight horizontal band. This is what is left of the Wible flume: a pipe that supplied water from the drainage on the right to the gold camp on the left (see interpretation panels at south end of pull off for a map showing this locations of camp and water source.)

Simon Wible and his operation is further discussed in Trails Across Time (page 63) and extensively on Interpretation Panels at the Canyon Creek stop.



But There’s More…

Look around the mountain sides above the Wible Flume for signs of glaciation. First, you’ll note striations on the face of the mountains. These striations are caused by the scraping motion of the moving masses of ice (that in turn ultimately formed the classic U-shaped valleys). Those striations can be found nearly to the top of the mountains suggesting that at one time the ice in this area was 3,000 feet thick.

Look also in the saddles of the mountains where cirque glaciers used to fill. Here, and in other locations viewed from the road, you’ll see recessional gravel moraines that are particularly sharp and well defined… almost knifed edged. These are called “ice cored moraines” and as their name suggests retain their precise shape due to the hardened inner ice core. Enjoy these now, for as the climate warms these features will gradually melt internally and soften their sharp edges.