Moss Harbor, China Poot Bay

Moss Harbor, China Poot Bay

by | Jul 31, 2022

Moss Harbor is a low tide lagoon at the head of China Poot Bay on the southern shore of Kachemak Bay, about 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Seldovia and 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Homer, Alaska. China Poot Bay is nearly dry at low water, and a narrow channel along the northeast side of the bay terminates at Moss Harbor, which is the local name for a boat basin with depths of about 24 feet (7 m). Knowledgable boat operators transit the channel with skiffs near low water and in larger boats near high water to avoid the strong currents. A peninsula forming a headland known locally as Moosehead Point separates Moss Harbor from Peterson Bay and is connected to the mainland only at low tides by a narrow isthmus. The peninsula is composed mostly of basalt and chert in a geological formation called the McHugh Complex which is part of the huge Southern Margin composite terrane that accreted to the western margin of the North American plate during the Mesozoic period. The present-day landscape of Kachemak Bay is the result of repeated glaciations during the Pleistocene. During the Naptowne Glaciation of the late Wisconsin glacial period, nearly all of Cook Inlet and adjacent land areas were covered by glacial ice. At that time, expanding glaciers from the Kenai Mountains filled Kachemak Bay with ice to an altitude of about 1,575 feet (480 m) above present-day sea level. The deglaciation history of Kachemak Bay is not well known, but it is likely local ice retreat was well underway before 13,000 years ago and ice had retreated more than 6 miles (10 km) up the valley from the present upper Kachemak Bay shoreline by 10,000 years ago.

The peninsula forming Moosehead Point may have been the location of the lost village of Soonroodna visited in 1883 by Johan Adrian Jacobsen, a Norwegian ethnologist, and adventurer. Soonroodna was a village of considerable size even before the arrival of Russian fur traders in 1794. Shortly after they had built Fort Saint Nicholas at the Kenai River the Russians went to Soonroodna in many boats to carry out a raid and they took as many of the young girls and women as they could back to the fort and kept them as wives. In deep sorrow, the remaining Natives left their village because they realized that against the Russians they were powerless, and they scattered among the villages on Kodiak Island. Starting in mid-1881, Jacobsen was hired by the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde to gather ethnographic objects and other specimens for a collection of disappearing cultures. His travels took him from the Arctic to South America, North America, Korea, Japan, Siberia, and the Pacific Islands. While waiting at Alexandrovsk, which is present-day Nanwalek, for a ship that would take him to Kodiak, he hired a local guide to take him to what was left of Soonroodna, an ancient village reputedly located at the foot of the third glacier on the south side of Kachemak Bay and abandoned between 1792-1796. At the village site, he collected arrow and harpoon points, pottery, blades, and wooden masks. In 2018, the Foundation for Prussian Cultural Heritage returned the Native artifacts to Alaska. Nine objects from the Berlin Ethnological Museum collection had come into their possession. The excavated items, including two broken masks, a cradle, and a wooden idol, had been brought by Jacobsen from Chenega Island in Prince William Sound and from Soonroodna in Kachemak Bay. They were determined to have been acquired through looting and not through an archaeological dig with approval, and the foundation decided to return the objects to the Chugach Alaska Corporation.

China Poot Lake, also called Leisure Lake, is located within Kachemak Bay State Park, and from an elevation of 168 feet (51 m), the lake is drained by China Poot Creek which flows 0.6 miles (1 km) to the head of China Poot Bay where it cascades over a series of falls. These falls are impassable to returning adult Pacific salmon, but the lake supports populations of coastrange sculpin, threespine stickleback, rainbow trout, and annually introduced sockeye salmon fry. Prior to the introduction of sockeye salmon juveniles into the lake, there was no sockeye salmon run in the area. The sockeye enhancement program is conducted by the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association and paid for by commercial fishers. Since the falls on China Poot Creek are impassable, the returning salmon run is completely harvested and recruitment is currently supplied by annual fry introductions. The China Poot sockeye salmon have developed into an important salmon fishery in the Kachemak Bay area. From June through August, adult sockeye salmon returning to China Poot Creek are commercially fished between Port Graham and Peterson Bay by seine and set-nets. The fish that escape the commercial nets are available to harvest by personal use dipnetting. In 1984, the Alaska Board of Fisheries designated China Poot Creek open to personal use dip net fishing in July by Alaska residents from the freshwater boundary to the barrier falls. Dipnetting is accomplished by using a bag-shaped net supported on all sides by a rigid frame with a diameter not exceeding 5 feet (1.5 m) to scoop fish out of the river. Different types and sizes of nets are used in different fisheries, however, the methods used are similar from one fishery to another. Dipnetting can take place from shore or from a boat. Read more here and here. Explore more of Moss Harbor and China Poot Bay here:

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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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