The Pinks of Valdez


Its always a good idea to drive to the end of the road in Alaska. There aren't that many roads in the state, so they all count. From Valdez, the Dayville Road ends at the oil company loading docks. Just before the big gate, however, is the Solomon Gulch Hatchery where you can watch the pink solomon swim by at close range.

The mouth of Solomon Gulch across the bay from Valdez, AK. Photo: Valdez Fisheries Development Association.

You can fish within a stone's throw of this sign, along the rip-rap seawall not 50' from your car. Same fish, 300' away.

About 500' upstream, the creek valley becomes a vertical gorge and the creek a waterfall. Now fish return to spawn in the hatchery.

The hydropower company runs the place. They incubate millions of pink (humpback) and coho (silver) salmon eggs here each year. They raise and release 200 million pink salmon fry annually. Whoa.

The weir lets the fish through, but keeps the riff-raff out. By riff-raff, I mean the high school surfing team (Go Buccaneers!).

Just seagulls and a couple of sea lions are around today. Its not spawning season yet, so the fish numbers are modest. The brown bears, seals, eagles, otters, and the rest of the crew arrive in August when the show really gets going. The stream mouth will be choked with colorful, hook-jawed fish then.

Humpies and silvers lazily play on the weir.

Seagulls patiently watch thousands of fish (several pounds larger than themselves) swim by all day long. I imagine them thinking, "Mine. Mine. Mine."

Fat sea lions lounge around in the channel and haul out by the offshore net pens. They try not to look too guilty. Um...failing.

An unending train of fish traverses the shoreline.

Lots of flapping, chasing, and general bullying goes on in the shallows of the creek mouth.

A pretty little lagoon is nearby - across the road from all the fishermen's campers.

Valdez, Homer, and Haines are very livable, outdoorsy Alaska towns. Visit them first when deciding where to retire. I'd also take a hard look at Sitka and Petersburg. Avoid Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, and all of the interior. The best communities in Alaska have topography, seawater, and Scandinavians.

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