Chenik, Kamishak Bay

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Chenik, Kamishak Bay

by | Feb 1, 2021

Chenik is a historical community at the mouth of Chenik Creek on the west shore of Kamishak Bay, about 98 miles (158 km) northeast of King Salmon and 98 miles (158 km) southwest of Homer, Alaska. The Alutiiq name was first reported by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1925. The village was most likely used as a seasonal camp for fishing, hunting, and trading by families from Lake Iliamna villages. In particular, beluga whales were historically hunted in the spring when they fed on spawning herring close to shore. In 1923, only one family lived at Chenik and by 1951, the village was abandoned. The area is now part of the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge.

Kamishak Bay is a broad indentation at the north end of the Alaska Peninsula, near the mouth of Cook Inlet, at the northeast end of Shelikof Strait. In 1796, a Russian ship entered Kamishak Bay and was damaged on one of the numerous reefs and abandoned. In 1890, there were numerous camps of sea otter hunters along the shore of Kamishak Bay between Cape Douglas and Augustine Island. The camps were occupied by Yup’ik and Alutiiq hunters, some of whom traveled over 200 miles (323 km) from villages in Bristol Bay. They crossed the tundra in the spring before the snow melted, carrying their belongings and skin boats on sledges, and hunted sea otters until the first snows of winter allowed them to return home.

Several important salmon streams drain into Kamishak Bay including the Kamishak River, McNeil River, Mikfik Creek, and Chenik Creek. Chenik Creek drais Chenik Lake and cascades over a waterfall into Chenik Lagoon. A fisheries enhancement project was attempted after the mouth of the creek was blocked following the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The stream mouth was modified in the 1980s, and hatchery fry were introduced in the lake in the 1980s and 1990s. These enhancement efforts were not successful, however, the natural population has since rebounded considerably. In 1967, the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary was established to protect the numerous Alaska brown bears that frequent the area, and in 1991, protection was expanded with the establishment of the McNeil River State Game Refuge that includes Chenik. Read more here and here. Explore more of Chenik here:

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