Ayakulik River, Kodiak Island

Ayakulik River, Kodiak Island

by | Oct 1, 2022

Ayakulik River starts at an unnamed lake about 2.5 miles (4 km) east of Grant Lagoon on the southwest coast of Kodiak Island and it flows generally south for 30 miles (48 km) to the southern flank of Mount Myrtle on the Shelikof Strait coast where the historical village of Ayakulik was located, about 89 miles (143 km) southwest of Kodiak and 22 miles (35 km) northwest of Akhiok, Alaska. The Ayakulik is the most extensive river systems on the island, draining an area of 186 square miles (48,174 ha), and includes 25 tributary streams and 271 lakes, making this one of the largest salmon-producing watersheds on Kodiak Island. The name was first published as ‘Reka Ayakulik’ by Captain Mikhail Tebenkov of the Imperial Russian Navy in 1852. The watershed consists mostly of unconsolidated Quaternary sediments including alluvial, glacial, marine, and swamp deposits. Numerous mountains such as Mount Myrtle with an elevation of 1,402 feet (427 m) protrude through these sediments and consist of Late Cretaceous sandstone and shale in the Kodiak Formation.

The river is one of the most important ancestral locations of the Alutiiq people and culture. At the time of Russian contact, the village at the river mouth included over 130 barabaras, the Alutiiq subterranean sod houses. Ayakulik Island situated about 2.3 miles (3.7 km) northwest of the village may have been used as a refuge island. In 1939, most of the natives of the area moved 15 miles (24 km) east to the village of Akhiok, but continued to use the Ayakulik to fish, hunt, and gather traditional foods. Today, the uplands along the lower 1 mile (1.6 km) of the river have complicated land ownership, but most of the property is owned by the Ayakulik Alaskan Native Village Corporation, and several smaller parcels including a sport lodge are privately owned. The corporation is part of Koniag Incorporated, one of thirteen Alaska Native Regional Corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 that entitled Alaska Natives with aboriginal rights to the lands of their ancestors. The corporation’s land consists of 640 acres (259 ha) in a square mile section located at the mouth of the Ayakulik River.

The Ayakulik River is a slow-moving, clear stream characterized by a series of pools and riffles running over gravel and rocky beds. The lower 11.5 miles (18.5 km) of the river, from the mouth upstream to its confluence with Bare Creek, has a well-defined channel with an average depth of 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8 m). The remainder of the river meanders through large flat marshlands which range in width from 2 to 3 miles (3.2-4.8 km). The river has a gentle gradient, except for some short reaches that drop 25 feet (7.6 m) per mile. Water levels are usually low from mid-June to mid-August with peak flows occurring from mid-May to mid-June and from mid-August to October. The Ayakulik River supports five species of Pacific salmon, provides excellent sport fishing opportunities, and contributes to a strong commercial fishery. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game operates a fish weir during the summer months near the mouth of the Ayakulik River to count sockeye, Chinook, pink, chum, and coho salmon, and steelhead. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Ayakulik River 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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