Rabbit Creek, Potter Marsh

Rabbit Creek, Potter Marsh

by | Mar 15, 2021

Rabbit Creek starts at the outlet of Rabbit Lake, at the base of North Suicide Peak in the Chugach Mountains at an elevation of 3,082 feet (940 m), and flows northwest and west for 26 miles (42 km) to Potter Marsh where it merges with Little Rabbit Creek and discharges into Turnagain Arm, about 13 miles (21 km) northwest of Hope and 10 miles (16 km) south-southeast of downtown Anchorage, Alaska. The Rabbit Creek watershed is 9,152 acres (3,704 ha). The name is a translation of the Dena’ina name “Ggeh Betnu”, reported in 1906 by T.G. Gerdine and R.H. Sargent of the U.S. Geological Survey. Little Rabbit Creek is the largest tributary with its headwaters at McHugh Peak. Both streams have considerable development along the banks at lower elevations.

In 1916-17, the construction of the Alaska Railroad created Potter Marsh when a causeway was built across a shallow tidal embayment of Turnagain Arm. A bridge over Rabbit Creek allowed tidal flushing of the impounded area but marsh vegetation began to grow and freshwater ponds developed. The resulting saltmarsh attracted migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, and the wildlife attracted hunters and trappers. By the 1960s, Potter Marsh had also become popular for wildlife viewing. The marsh settled approximately 3.5 feet (1 m) during the 1964 earthquake, drowning most of the trees at the marsh’s eastern border that created a standing forest of dead trees, and increasing the open water habitat throughout. Construction of the New Seward Highway in 1970-71 resulted in further water impoundment. The drowned forest community attracts raptors, songbirds, and shorebirds, which utilize the deadwood snags as elevated perches above the wetland vegetation. In 1988, the Alaska Legislature expanded and renamed the game refuge the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

In 1985, a wooden boardwalk 1,550 feet (473 m) long was built through the marsh and across watery openings and sedges for wildlife viewing. From late April through September, Canada geese, northern pintails, canvasback ducks, red-necked phalaropes, horned and red-necked grebes, and northern harriers use this wetland. From May to August, gulls, Arctic terns, shorebirds such as yellowlegs, and occasionally trumpeter swans are present during spring and fall migration. In addition to birds, the marsh provides a habitat for muskrats, moose, and spawning Chinook, coho, and pink salmon. Read more here and here. Explore more of Rabbit Creek here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (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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