Sahlin Falls, Sheep Bay

Sahlin Falls, Sheep Bay

by | Oct 28, 2022

Sahlin Falls is at the base of Sahlin Creek that starts from a cirque glacier at an elevation of about 2,800 feet (850 m) and cascades south for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to Sahlin Lake at an elevation of 720 feet (219 m), and then southeast for 1.2 miles (2 km) to the northern shore of Sheep Bay, about 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Valdez and 13 miles (21 km) northwest of Cordova, Alaska. The entire watershed is in the Chugach National Forest and the local name was first reported in 1933 by the U.S. Forest Service. The creek is named for Julius Sahlin who operated a sawmill at the mouth of this creek starting in 1918. Sheep Bay is a deglaciated fjord that extends northeast for about 8 miles (13 km) from the northern shore of Orca Bay in eastern Prince William Sound. The underlying bedrock is part of a granitic pluton that formed from a magma intrusion in the early Eocene, or about 50.5 to 53.5 million years ago.

Chugach or Sugpiaq people have lived in the region around Prince William Sound for millennia according to the archaeological record. They are Alutiiq or Pacific Eskimo who speak the Chugach dialect of the Alutiiq language. Historically, they traded with and fought against neighboring groups such as the Eyak, Ahtna or Dena’ina, and the Tlingit. In 1741, the Danish explorer Vitus Bering, while in the service of the Imperial Russian Navy, encountered the Chugach, and Spanish, English, and American explorers soon followed. Following the Alaska Purchase in 1867, mining and fishing enterprises proliferated in Prince William Sound. In 1907, the Chugach National Forest was established and included all of Prince William Sound from the Copper River in the east to the Kenai Peninsula in the west. The Chugach National Forest, with 5.6 million acres (2.3 million ha) is the second largest national forest in the U.S. after the Tongass. It is situated at the northern limit of the temperate rainforest zone and about a third of the land area is barren rock and glacier ice. From 1911 to 1938, the Copper and Northwestern Railway connected the copper mines at Kennecott to a shipping terminal at Cordova.

The demand for wood during construction and afterward for maintenance of the railway was enormous since all the bridges, trestles, and railroad ties were made from timber. The canneries also needed wood for barrels and boxes. Several small sawmills were built in the national forest to supply the lumber. Some were on barges that could be moved and others such as at Sahlin Creek were built on the land. The Sahlin Falls Lumber and Box Company was established by the millwright Julius Sahlin, David Collier, and M.E. Kenney, all from Anacortes, Washington. The facility employed 12 people and included the sawmill, a large store building, and a warehouse. Two large Pelton wheels were installed at the falls that provided 200 horsepower. The rough lumber was used in the manu­facture of boxes and the best lumber was used for making barrels for the herring salteries and salmon canneries. Dimensional lumber was also placed on the local market. Read more here and here. Explore more of Sahlin Creek and Sheep Bay 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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