We're certainly getting an education in salmon fishing this week!
We've read about this hugely popular sport in our Alaskan guide
books, promotional literature, and interpretive signs various places but
now we're completely immersed in the fishing culture at Salmon
There is a very long history of salmon fishing in this area,
which you can verify at the K’beq interpretive site across the road from
the Russian River Campground entrance. This location near the confluence
of the Kenai and Russian Rivers has been used for approximately 11,000
years by Native Alaskans to subsistence fish for salmon.
The K'beq heritage site is part of the Seward Ranger District of the Chugach
National Forest but is operated by the Kenaitze Indian tribe. They offer
free cultural tours to visitors.
SALMON FISHING AS A SPECTATOR SPORT
I'm sure it's more fun to be out in the river fly-fishing and
watching out for the bears who want the same salmon you're angling for
. . . but I can tell you that it's also fun to learn more about the
sport by walking through the lush rainforest watching the action
and reading all of the interpretive panels along the boardwalk and dirt
That's the focus of this entry. I'll show you two pages of photos of
the "fish walk" along the Russian River from two hikes I took with Cody.
After we got settled into our campsite yesterday Jim wanted to go for a
We went across the road from our campground loop, through a parking area
for fishermen, and down a long set of wooden and metal steps to the
Russian River. The river is 150-200 feet below the level of the
Here's a repeat of the campground map to show
its proximity to the Russian River (at the top of the map section) and
the Kenai River. The two rivers converge a couple miles north of the
the dotted red lines along the river, indicating trails:
There is a trail along the southeast bank of the river for about 2½
with approximately 35 access points to the water.
The trail is a rainforest wonderland! I love it. It reminds me of some
places we've visited in Oregon.
There are huge cottonwood trees with eagles nesting in
them, tall spruce and hemlocks, aspens, birches, willows, ostrich ferns
taller than I am, shorter horsetail ferns, bluejoint grass, numerous
pink wild roses and blue wild geraniums – so lush and beautiful!
PROTECTING THE HABITAT
One of the first things we noticed when we got down to the river was all
the plastic fencing:
Because of the heavy use this river gets from anglers every summer there are
serious erosion problems. The fencing discourages people from trampling the
vegetation and causing further erosion of the banks.
Interpretive panels and signs describe how critical it is to stabilize
the soil and maintain the integrity of the banks. Here are some of
There are plastic net fences along the water and trail, wooden railings, and
defined trails of dirt, wood, rubber, and light-filtering fiberglass to
protect the bank, soil, and plants:
Panel explaining all the benefits of the
A closer look at the unique walkway; plants can
grow under the path, adding stability to the river bank.
Steps and/or decks allow access to the water without damaging the soil
and plants on the banks. It’s effective, attractive, and interesting.
I noticed only one
place where someone (or perhaps a bear?) has pulled down the fencing:
IT'S TOUGH TO BE A SALMON!
There weren't a lot of folks fishing this afternoon when we were down at the river.
There may have been more this morning. It's also a little early for the
second run of the sockeye and there are strict limits to how many
can be caught because of their limited numbers this year.
One of the interpretive signs in the area says that only about 2% of
salmon make it to the Pacific Ocean, where they live for three years,
and return to their spawning grounds in Alaska successfully before
This year many of them appear to be dying in the ocean or coming back in
two years instead of three, perhaps because there isn’t enough for them
to eat out there. They are smaller and either don’t produce as many eggs
or don't have as good sperm as they would if they were three years old. This
has happened before and scientists aren't always able to explain what's
There are a number of other rules and regulations that control fishing
in the Russian River -- where fishing is allowed, the types of
salmon and other fish (rainbow trout, Dolly Varden) that can be caught at particular times and in what
manner (fly fishing only for red salmon right now, e.g.), precautions to
protect oneself from bears that also want the fish, and other
regulations to ensure the safety of anglers and the preservation of enough
salmon to spawn.
The confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers is currently designated
as a sanctuary where all fishing is prohibited until July 15 or
until the Alaska Department of Fish & Game says it's OK to fish there:
Another sign explains that thousands of early red (sockeye) salmon hold
up in the sanctuary area to rest and gather strength for the run
upstream to their spawning grounds. They are extremely vulnerable to
anglers at this time.
Before the sanctuary area can be opened to fishing, a satisfactory
escapement level must be achieved at the counting weir located above
Russian River Falls.
We saw one of the weirs at the bottom of the falls later in the day;
I'll show that to you in the next entry -- along with a mama
grizzly and her two cubs who were fishing there! We didn't see the weir
at the top of the falls.
Continued on the next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil