Tutka River, Southern Glacier

Tutka River, Southern Glacier

by | Nov 18, 2019

Tutka River is the local name for a stream that flows to the head of Tutka Bay, a deep embayment on the southern coast of Kachemak Bay, about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Homer and 15 miles (24 km) east of Seldovia, Alaska. The tidal estuary of the Tutka River is a glacial outwash plain where two streams merge. These streams are each about 7 miles (11 km) long and originate from cirques and snowfields, remnants of a once-massive icefield called the Southern Glacier.

In about 1850, towards the close of the Russian occupation of Alaska, Captain Archimandritof made hydrographic surveys of the Kenai Peninsula for the Russian American Company. Copies of his manuscript maps were used by other Russian navigators including Mikhail Dmitriyevich Tebenkov. Tebenkof was a Russian hydrographer and vice-admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy, who also served as director of the Russian American Company and was the governor of Russian America from 1845 to 1850. He was perhaps the most outstanding Russian surveyor of the time, dedicating much time and patient work to the improvement of charts of the Alaskan coast that were later used by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey following the Alaska Purchase. Based on the notes and manuscript maps of Archimandritof, Tebenkof was the first to publish maps showing Tutka Bay and the icefield he named the Southern Glacier. At that time, the Southern Glacier was draped over the southern Kenai Mountains, flowing northwesterly to the head of Tutka Bay, and southeasterly to Taylor Bay, and southwesterly to the western arm of Port Dick on the Gulf of Alaska coast.

Today, Tutka River is within Kachemak Bay State Park, the first legislatively designated wilderness park in the Alaska State Parks system. The park has no road access and visitors fly or travel by water taxi from Homer. A new adventure trail, named the Tutka Backdoor Trail, is being developed that leads from the head of Tutka Bay for 21 miles (34 km) to Taylor Bay on the Gulf of Alaska coast. Read more about Tutka River and Southern Glacier here and here. Explore more of Tutka River here:

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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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