Beluga Slough, Homer

Beluga Slough, Homer

by | Jun 15, 2020

Beluga Slough is a tidal wetland about 0.6 miles (1 km) long, located on the southern Kenai Peninsula near the entrance to Cook Inlet, about 121 miles (195 km) southwest of Anchorage, in the community of Homer, Alaska. Beluga Lake is formed by a causeway with a tide gate that bisects the estuary of Palmer Creek. A small remnant of the original slough remains as a tidal estuary. The name is a transliteration of the Russian “byeluga” meaning “white whale” reported in 1904 by R.W. Stone of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Homer is a small community on Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. The town was first established on the Homer Spit in 1895. Both the town and spit were named for Homer Pennock, a gold-mining company promoter, who arrived on the spit in 1896 and built living quarters for his crew of 50 men. However, gold mining was never profitable in the area. The spit was inhospitable in winter and early settlers preferred the mainland for agriculture and raising livestock. At that time, Beluga Slough was a natural harbor used to land boats at high tide and a new settlement was established on the north shore of the slough. Coal was discovered in the area in the late 1890s and the Cook Inlet Coal Fields Company further developed the town and built a railroad along the beach connecting the coal mines to a deep water dock at the end of the spit.

In 1921, James Wickersham, the territorial Judge of Alaska and noted climber of Mount McKinley, envisioned Homer as a logistical center for lower Cook Inlet. He proposed to the U.S. Secretaries of the Navy and Interior that a major naval base be constructed in Kachemak Bay and that a townsite be developed on the spit and adjoining mainland. In 1927, the Homer Civic League made the first attempt to build a road across Beluga Slough for easier access to the spit and an airstrip. In 1941, the Alaska Road Commission constructed a permanent causeway with a tide gate across the estuary of Palmer Creek, effectively blocking the tidal exchange and creating Beluga Lake and Beluga Slough. During World War II, the Civil Aeronautics Administration constructed a long runway at the Homer airstrip using beach gravel so that fighter planes could refuel en route to the Aleutian Islands. Today the lake is used exclusively as a base for floatplanes, except during the winter when the frozen lake is used for recreation. Read more here and here. Explore more of Beluga Slough here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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