Chickaloon Bay, Turnagain Arm

Chickaloon Bay, Turnagain Arm

by | May 24, 2021

Chickaloon Bay is located on the Kenai Peninsula, about 46 miles (74 km) northeast of Kenai and 22 miles (35 km) south and across Turnagain Arm from Anchorage, Alaska. The first Europeans to explore this upper section of Cook Inlet were Russian fur traders employed by the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company that would later become the Russian-American Company. Turnagain Arm was named by William Bligh who served as the sailing master for Captain James Cook on his third and final voyage to find the Northwest Passage. Upon reaching the head of Cook Inlet in 1778, Bligh commanded a small boat party that explored Knik Arm. A second party was dispatched up Turnagain Arm with James King. Both returned to report finding only rivers and not a through passage.

Captain Cook sent a crew ashore at Point Possession to plant the British flag and perform a claiming ceremony. This provided the first description of the Dena’ina Athabascans that inhabited a village at Point Possession to the west of Chickaloon Bay. Chickaloon Bay is named for Chik’el’unt, the last Dena’ina family that lived at the mouth of the Chickaloon River. The river is a major salmon spawning stream that flows into Turnagain Arm at Chickaloon Bay and was a significant source of food for the Dena’ina. Cook Inlet beluga whales were also a valuable part of the subsistence diet. The whales move in and out of Turnagain Arm with the rise and fall of the tides, probably to avoid the extensive mudflats created by the extreme tidal range. The whales follow the eulachon runs in the spring and the salmon runs in the summer and fall.

Between 1837-1840, over half of the Dena’ina population are killed as a result of a larger smallpox epidemic that swept through Alaska. This epidemic has been ranked as one of the most significant events in the history of Alaska’s Native people. The 1918 flu epidemic also had a disastrous effect on the small Dena’ina communities and ten people from the Point Possession area were recorded as perishing from the epidemic, including five members of the Chik’el’unt family at Chickaloon River. After the 1964 Alaska earthquake, the last inhabitants of Chickaloon Bay relocated to Eklutna, north of Anchorage on Knik Arm. Read more here and here. Explore more of Chickaloon Bay and Turnagain Arm here:

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