Polly Creek and Little Polly Creek drain a combined watershed of 16,113 acres (6,521 ha), on the southern flank of an unnamed ridge that extends southeast from the summit of Mount Redoubt, and flow generally south for 9 miles (14.5 km) and 8 miles (12.8 km) respectively to the western shore of Cook Inlet, about 56 miles (90 km) northwest of Homer and 46 miles (74 km) southwest of Kenai, Alaska. The name was used by local prospectors and was first published in 1920 by the U.S. Geological Survey. Most of the Polly Creek watershed and the associated Cook Inlet shoreline is privately owned by Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native corporation, but is within the boundary of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. The tide range at Polly Creek can exceed 30 feet (9 m) and expose a tidal flat nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) wide where the sandy beaches are especially productive, supporting a commercial clam harvest in most years.
The archaeological record provides abundant evidence of human consumption of shellfish in the Cook Inlet region. Ancient middens near Polly Creek have yielded razor clam and cockle shells. House pits provide evidence that a village was located here and probably inhabited by the Dena’ina, the Athabaskan inhabitants of most of the Cook Inlet Basin, and their oral tradition describes the harvesting, preservation, and consumption of shellfish. In the 1920s, many Alaskan Native people of Cook Inlet participated in a commercial clamming operation at Polly Creek in the spring that provided clams to the Snug Harbor cannery on the west coast of Chisik Island about 13 miles (21 km) southwest in Tuxedni Bay, as well as to canneries in Seldovia and Kenai. During this same decade, most Dena’ina from the western shore of lower Cook Inlet moved north to the village of Tyonek; however, their descendants continue to harvest razor clams, butter clams, and cockles at traditional places.
Today at Polly Creek, a managed razor clam fishery occurs along 6 miles (10 km) of shoreline open to commercial and recreational diggers from May to August. This is the only remaining commercial razor clam fishery in Alaska and clams are hand dug by seasonal workers that live in tent camps along Polly Creek. They are paid by the pound for digging razor clams, and the job is back-breaking work. When the tides are very low, the clam diggers walk to the beaches or take a skiff or raft to harvest clams, returning to camp when their buckets are full. Individual workers can harvest about 200 to 250 pounds (91-113 kg) per day. Coolers are filled with whole clams and flown from the beach to the Pacific Alaska Shellfish plant in Nikiski four to six times a day. Read more here and here. Explore more of Polly Creek and the shoreline of Cook Inlet here: