Days 41 and 42 (Saturday and Sunday Aug 8/9) were pretty easy days here in Valdez AK…with only a few scheduled activities.
Saturday our planned outings were to the Valdez Museum…which we skipped to go buy more halibut and groceries, priorities ya know…followed by a trip up to the salmon hatchery at Solomon Gulch and a visit to the Valdez Glacier Viewing site…from which strangely enough you can’t see the Valdez Glacier any longer.
The hatchery is set up at the output of Solomon Creek…but no salmon ever go up the creek. This is because almost the entire flow of the creek is diverted at the top of the bluff into pipes going down to the hydroelectric plant. What little isn’t diverted goes over a 100+ foot high waterfall so obviously no salmon are going up there either. There’s a fish weir to keep any salmon from proceeding up the creek since that would put them into the bottom end of the plant. There is a fish ladder that leads some salmon up to the hatchery area but there are uncountable numbers of salmon that miss the fish ladder and just die up against the weir. From the weir out to the end of the creek where it dumps into the bay is maybe 250 yards and as you will be able to see from the photos there are tens of fish per square foot in the water…so that would mean millions dying out in the creek and this is just one day. The place really smelled of dead fish and the seagulls were having a feast. Unfortunately, the advertised bears were nowhere in sight…so we basically looked at the dead/dying salmon for a bit, looked at the entrance to the hatchery for a bit, and said “that was fun, let’s go.”
The fish gathered at the weir trying to get upstream…I wonder if it’s sort of a biologic GPS they are following or the smell of their birth stream or what they use to find their way back to the precise 20 feet of stream where they hatched.
See what I mean about crowded with fish.
Looking upstream toward the weir from about 20% of the way to the mouth…the entire creek is filled like the two shots above with fish.
The remains of Solomon Creek coming over the falls…definitely not swimmable.
A second entry attempt to the hatchery…just behind and below the dark rock on the left of this shot is the 12 inch pipe the hatchlings were released out of…so they’re crowded around this entrance (which is blocked with a grate) as well trying to follow their biological urge to return.
Eagle perched over the parking lot…it (he I think) wasn’t very close and the light was lousy but hey, it’s an eagle so Neil got a shot of it.
Over at Valdez Glacier Viewpoint. The glacier at the upper right is also retreating and is not Valdez Glacier. It used to be visible coming out the valley on the left but has retreated up out of sight. The large chunk over on the right center is a remaining piece of the Valdez Glacier…it was apparently narrower around the point of land and as it retreated it melted in the middle instead of at the end and isolated a chunk of the glacier which is still slowly melting. Not much to look at really…especially after the great views of other glaciers we’ve had on beautiful days…but it’s one of the things to do here in Valdez so we did it.
We headed home and Neil made some fish chowder for dinner with leftovers for lunch.
Sunday we did Mass in the AM and since it was raining just some house chores the rest of the day…regenerating our water softener mostly. Since it was raining we passed on the potluck in the very small covered shelter and went out to the Elks Lodge here instead.
Tomorrow we’re off on a 3 day transit period…250 miles to Tok AK on Monday and another 90 to Chicken AK on Tuesday to get us close to the border for our crossing and transit to Dawson City on Wednesday.