Campbell Creek, Turnagain Arm

Campbell Creek, Turnagain Arm

by | Feb 15, 2021

Campbell Creek is formed by the North and South Forks and flows southwest for 10 miles (16 km) from the Chugach Mountains through the city of Anchorage to Campbell Lake, and then enters Turnagain Arm about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Potter and 6.5 miles (10.5 km) south-southwest of downtown Anchorage, Alaska. The Dena’ina inhabited this area for millennia and called the creek Qin Cheghitnu meaning Crying Ridge Creek. Crying Ridge referred to Tanaina Peak in the Chugach Mountains, in the upper reaches of the watershed, which was considered to be a place of bereavement. The current name was reported in 1906 by T.G. Gerdine and R.H. Sargent of the U.S. Geological Survey and is derived from nearby Point Campbell. Point Campbell was named by Captain George Vancouver who wrote in May 1794 “a point which I call Point Campbell and which with Point Possession may be considered as the outer northeast and southwest points of Turnagain river”.

The headwaters of Campbell Creek begin in the Chugach Mountains at an elevation of roughly 5,000 feet (1500 m) and the watershed drains about 44,800 acres (18,130 ha). Three main tributaries form Campbell Creek including the South Fork, the North Fork, and Little Campbell Creek. The upper portions of the watershed are in Chugach State Park which is forested with steep topography. As the creek descends the terrain flattens and becomes densely developed with residential and commercial buildings. The expansion of Anchorage and settlement of the Campbell Creek watershed have had major localized alterations. Several reaches along Little Campbell Creek have been straightened, channelized, and put into culverts in order to accommodate development. Marshy areas have been drained, and large developments have replaced former wetlands. One of the most dramatic alterations was the damming of Campbell Creek near its mouth to create Campbell Lake.

Campbell Lake was created in the late 1950s with the construction of an earthen dam. The dam blocked the outflow of Campbell Creek and flooded a saltmarsh to form the largest lake in Anchorage. Several fish species can be found in the lake including salmon. The waterbody is 125 acres (51 ha) with a shoreline of 3.5 miles (5.6 km) that now has some of the most valuable private properties in Anchorage. The intertidal area adjacent to the former marsh is now part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. The Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, a section of shoreline 16 miles (26 km) long from Point Woronzof to Potter Creek. The vast majority of the refuge is located on intertidal floodplains of glacial silt, with a smaller portion consisting of coastal wetlands, bogs, wooded areas. Read more here and here. Explore more of Campbell Creek 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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