Web posted Wednesday, May 8, 2002

photo: people

 
Salmon are the liveblood of most residents in the towns and villages across Kachemak Bay.

Life across Kachemak Bay: Where life is lived according to wind and tides


While the road system ends when you reach the tip of the Homer Spit, there are plenty of opportunities for relaxation -- and adventure -- if you continue to the south. By skiff or by kayak, by rented boat, ferry or plane, the world beyond the end of the Spit holds many marvels.

Geologically speaking, the other side of the Bay is a different world. The Homer side has a smooth, sandy coastline with bluffs overhead, but the south side of Kachemak Bay is a combination of high mountains and scalloped beaches, glacial moraines and rocky nooks and crannies, high alpine tundra and old-growth rain forest, any or all of which beg for exploration.

As far as the people you'll find on the other side of the Bay, the southern shore of Kachemak Bay is, again, in a different world than Homer and other communities on Alaska's road system. It is set apart by its adherence to old ways and a slower style of life. From Bear Cove to Nanwalek, the weather and tides hold sway. Skiffs, ferries and floatplanes are basic forms of transportation, and you'll notice well-used tide books sticking out of the shirt pockets of many.

In all, perhaps 800 people live in half a dozen year-round communities along the south side of Kachemak Bay. Most rely on commercial fishing for their livelihoods, although artists are evident throughout the area. Virtually all live, to one degree or another, on the sustenance they can get from Kachemak Bay and the land around it.

photo: people

 
Kachemak Bay - click for larger image

At the head of the Bay is Bradley Lake, site of a $328 million hydroelectric dam that started producing electricity in 1991 for homes and businesses as far north as Fairbanks. It helps keep the entire Kachemak Bay region lit up when avalanches take out the main power lines coming from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula.

Just west of Bradley Lake is Bear Cove, where a small winter population grows as the weather warms. It was one of the first settlements in Kachemak Bay -- scientists report that early-Eskimo and late-Athabaskan people lived on nearby Chugachik Island. In the early 1900s, fox farmers thrived in the area.

Continuing down the Bay toward Homer, boaters will find safe moorages and good fishing at times in Aurora Lagoon and Mallard Bay, as well as good angling in Humpy Creek. A few miles west is Glacier Spit, which is actually the toe of the moraine below Grewingk Glacier <> the most prominent of the five major glaciers across the Bay. When you're standing on the Homer Spit, the big glacier you see is Grewingk, named for Constantin Grewingk, who in 1850 published an important work on geology and volcanism in Alaska.

Almost directly across from Homer is the thriving community of Halibut Cove and the smaller communities of Peterson Bay, Neptune Bay, and China Poot Bay, which are home to several of Kachemak Bay's well-known lodges. A relatively new industry in the area is commercial oyster and mussel farming. The farms are known to connoisseurs as having some of the best shellfish in the world, which the farmers attribute to the rich, clean waters of Kachemak Bay.

photo: people

 
Kachemak Bay - click for larger image.

A few miles west and lying beneath Sadie Peak, the highest mountain across the Bay, is magnificent Sadie Cove. Only a handful of homes dot the cove, including Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge. The rest of the fjord is in Kachemak Bay State Park.

Next door is Tutka Bay, which is a small community unto itself. A group of year-round residents thrives in Little Tutka, including Tutka Bay Lodge. Tutka Lagoon is home to a pink salmon hatchery run by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, which is a major component of the commercial salmon fishery and also provides fun action for anglers. Tours are available for a fascinating look at the biology and economics of raising salmon in Alaska. Call the hatchery at 235-8486, but beware that the lagoon is inaccessible at most low tides. Tutka Bay also has one of the Division of Parks' public use cabins.

Boats can moor at a small public dock at Jakolof Bay, which is connected by road to Seldovia, making for a good mountainbike ride. An old gravel logging road also runs south, over the spine of the peninsula toward the Gulf of Alaska, but is washed out in numerous spots and is all but impassable.

Port Graham and Nanwalek mark the far end of Kachemak Bay. They are among the southernmost Eskimo villages in Alaska. Homer-based air taxi services have regular flights to both villages. Port Graham gives visitors a unique opportunity to see a portion of Alaska not often accessible to visitors.

It's easy to get out on Kachemak Bay. Charter boats, floatplanes, water taxis and ferries -- the state ferry Tustumena as well as private operators call on Seldovia -- are among the possibilities. Although kayaking is best left to those who have had some training because of Kachemak Bay's mercurial nature, many kayakers take their boats across the Bay on some sort of charter craft and spend their time paddling in protected areas.

While the road system ends when you reach the tip of the Homer Spit, there are plenty of opportunities for relaxation -- and adventure -- if you continue to the south. By skiff or by kayak, by rented boat, ferry or plane, the world beyond the end of the Spit holds many marvels.

Geologically speaking, the other side of the Bay is a different world. The Homer side has a smooth, sandy coastline with bluffs overhead, but the south side of Kachemak Bay is a combination of high mountains and scalloped beaches, glacial moraines and rocky nooks and crannies, high alpine tundra and old-growth rain forest, any or all of which beg for exploration.

As far as the people you'll find on the other side of the Bay, the southern shore of Kachemak Bay is, again, in a different world than Homer and other communities on Alaska's road system. It is set apart by its adherence to old ways and a slower style of life. From Bear Cove to Nanwalek, the weather and tides hold sway. Skiffs, ferries and floatplanes are basic forms of transportation, and you'll notice well-used tide books sticking out of the shirt pockets of many.

In all, perhaps 800 people live in half a dozen year-round communities along the south side of Kachemak Bay. Most rely on commercial fishing for their livelihoods, although artists are evident throughout the area. Virtually all live, to one degree or another, on the sustenance they can get from Kachemak Bay and the land around it.

At the head of the Bay is Bradley Lake, site of a $328 million hydroelectric dam that started producing electricity in 1991 for homes and businesses as far north as Fairbanks. It helps keep the entire Kachemak Bay region lit up when avalanches take out the main power lines coming from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula.

Just west of Bradley Lake is Bear Cove, where a small winter population grows as the weather warms. It was one of the first settlements in Kachemak Bay -- scientists report that early-Eskimo and late-Athabaskan people lived on nearby Chugachik Island. In the early 1900s, fox farmers thrived in the area.

Continuing down the Bay toward Homer, boaters will find safe moorages and good fishing at times in Aurora Lagoon and Mallard Bay, as well as good angling in Humpy Creek. A few miles west is Glacier Spit, which is actually the toe of the moraine below Grewingk Glacier <> the most prominent of the five major glaciers across the Bay. When you're standing on the Homer Spit, the big glacier you see is Grewingk, named for Constantin Grewingk, who in 1850 published an important work on geology and volcanism in Alaska.

Almost directly across from Homer is the thriving community of Halibut Cove and the smaller communities of Peterson Bay, Neptune Bay, and China Poot Bay, which are home to several of Kachemak Bay's well-known lodges. A relatively new industry in the area is commercial oyster and mussel farming. The farms are known to connoisseurs as having some of the best shellfish in the world, which the farmers attribute to the rich, clean waters of Kachemak Bay.

A few miles west and lying beneath Sadie Peak, the highest mountain across the Bay, is magnificent Sadie Cove. Only a handful of homes dot the cove, including Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge. The rest of the fjord is in Kachemak Bay State Park.

Next door is Tutka Bay, which is a small community unto itself. A group of year-round residents thrives in Little Tutka, including Tutka Bay Lodge. Tutka Lagoon is home to a pink salmon hatchery run by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, which is a major component of the commercial salmon fishery and also provides fun action for anglers. Tours are available for a fascinating look at the biology and economics of raising salmon in Alaska. Call the hatchery at 235-8486, but beware that the lagoon is inaccessible at most low tides. Tutka Bay also has one of the Division of Parks' public use cabins.

Boats can moor at a small public dock at Jakolof Bay, which is connected by road to Seldovia, making for a good mountainbike ride. An old gravel logging road also runs south, over the spine of the peninsula toward the Gulf of Alaska, but is washed out in numerous spots and is all but impassable.

Port Graham and Nanwalek mark the far end of Kachemak Bay. They are among the southernmost Eskimo villages in Alaska. Homer-based air taxi services have regular flights to both villages. Port Graham gives visitors a unique opportunity to see a portion of Alaska not often accessible to visitors.

It's easy to get out on Kachemak Bay. Charter boats, floatplanes, water taxis and ferries -- the state ferry Tustumena as well as private operators call on Seldovia -- are among the possibilities. Although kayaking is best left to those who have had some training because of Kachemak Bay's mercurial nature, many kayakers take their boats across the Bay on some sort of charter craft and spend their time paddling in protected areas.

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