Viekoda Bay, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

Viekoda Bay, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

by | Mar 17, 2023

Viekoda Bay is a deglaciated fjord that extends southeast for 18 miles (29 km) from Shelikof Strait on the northwestern coast of Kodiak Island, about 134 miles (216 km) southwest of Homer and 26 miles (42 km) west-northwest of Kodiak, Alaska.  The name is from the Russian ‘Mys Vykhoda’ meaning ‘Outlet Cape’ given by Mikhail Murashev in 1839 or 1840 for the eastern point of entrance to this bay. Murashev was a sub-lieutenant in the Imperial Russian Navy who sailed with Captain Mikhail D. Tebenkov on the Russian-American Company ship Elena from 1835 to 1850. The outer 9 miles (15 km) of the southwestern shoreline of Viekoda Bay is formed by Uganik Island and the remaining shoreline is formed by Kodiak Island. The geology of the watershed mostly represents the Kodiak Formation, except for the northern tip of Uganik Island which is composed of the Uyak Formation. The Kodiak Formation is part of a large accretionary complex in the Gulf of Alaska called the Chugach terrane. The formation comprises sandstone and shale with belts of slate and greywacke that developed from turbidites in a deep oceanic trench. The eruption of Mount Katmai in 1912 covered the watershed of Viekoda Bay with several feet of volcanic ash and pumice which rapidly eroded. Streams transported the sediment to the head of the bay where it was deposited creating shoals and tidal flats.

Viekoda Bay, and particularly the shoreline of Uganik Island, was important to prehistorical humans. Horseshoe Bay is an archaeological site on Cape Uganik that has been inhabited by humans for at least 4,100 years. Artifacts from Ocean Bay people record the oldest habitation, followed by Early Kachemak people from 3,800 to 3,300 years ago, and Early Koniag people from 800 to 700 years ago. Cape Uganik and the hills above Horseshoe Bay comprise rocks of the Uyak Formation which was a source of red chert and greenstone used by prehistoric craftsmen. In addition, greywacke beach cobbles are locally abundant as well as slate outcrops in adjacent areas of Viekoda Bay. These stones were used extensively by residents of the site for making sharp-edged cutting tools such as hand axes and projectile points. Studies of faunal remains at Horseshoe Bay suggest mass harvesting of mostly pelagic fish such as Pacific cod. Smoking, drying, and storing fish was the primary subsistence base for the Early Kachemak people. In historical times, the industrialization of salmon fishing and canning followed the Alaska Purchase, and before 1950, almost all salmon were caught with pile traps. At least 4 traps were situated in Viekoda Bay on the shoreline of Uganik Island including one at Horseshoe Bay.

The southern shore of Viekoda Bay lies within the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. The northern shore is part of the Kupreanof Peninsula with mixed land ownership including the State of Alaska, Afognak Native Corporation, and private in-holdings. The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is 1.9 million acres (768,903 ha) and includes the southwestern two-thirds of Kodiak Island, Uganik Island, the Red Peaks area of Afognak Island, and all of Ban Island. The refuge contains seven major rivers and about 100 streams that include spawning habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as steelhead and Dolly Varden. The refuge has only six native species of mammals including an estimated 2,300 Kodiak brown bears. Other mammals are the red fox, river otter, ermine, little brown bat, and tundra vole. The non-native mammals are Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goat, Roosevelt elk, caribou, marten, red squirrel, snowshoe hare, and beavers that were introduced to the archipelago between the 1920s and 1950s and are now hunted and trapped. The refuge currently maintains 8 public use cabins, including one in Viekoda Bay, each available on a reservation basis. Read more here and here. Explore more of Viekoda Bay and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge 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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