Tag Archives: Naknek

The draw of water

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Peter Pan Cannery on the Naknek

When in Naknek, I spent as much time as I could down by the water.  Hiking along the shore of the Naknek River was a favorite way to spend my off time.  The ice pack was solid enough to keep me from sinking too much in my mukluks, so I hiked as far as time allowed.

The hiking was peaceful, with the slow movement of ice down the river, and the constant flying of ducks, as they skimmed just above the water, their beating wings making small ripples on the glass like surface.

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Hiking along the Naknek River

 


South Naknek

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Heading across river

It was an overcast morning when we crossed over the Naknek River for South Naknek.  People were still using the ice road, but word was out that time was short.  It would turn out that businesses were in a rush to get heavy equipment across ASAP.

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Pressure ridge

The temperature had warmed up, but it was the tide that had the final word for the ice road.  High tides had been increasing substantially, as the higher water pushes up against the ice, these huge pressure ridges grew.  Some went right across the ice road, which limited access to anything without clearance.  I saw no Subarus crossing with us.

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An available home in S. Naknek

Of my time spent in the region, I enjoyed my day in South Naknek the most.  We picked up a couple of locals for guides, and we had an absolute blast exploring the southern side of the river.  We were welcomed by everyone we met, and had more than one offer to help us out if we wanted to move to the area.

I would love to come back to the region in the summer, but I can honestly say I’d want to spend my time on the south side of the Naknek River.  It’s a much more relaxed way of life here, and we were told that the huge influx of crowds to Naknek & King Salmon do not hit the southern side.  One can still meander down the river’s edge, fishing as you go, enjoying the solitude that Alaska is suppose to be about.

The canneries have all closed up shop in South Naknek.  The killing blow came when a road was built between King Salmon & Naknek.  It no longer made financial sense to process salmon from the southern side.  Grant Aviation still makes daily flights, weather permitting, to South Naknek, and they have a really nice airstrip.

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Driving across the Naknek River

The skies cleared well before noon, and we had absolutely beautiful weather as we traveled throughout South Naknek and the surrounding area.  The Alaska days were already getting longer, and the sun had regained some of the power that we had been missing during the winter months.

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Looking upstream

Now that Covid-19 has us all hunkered down, it’s hard not to wonder if I should have taken that job offer I had after one day in South Naknek.  Regardless, I can not wait for the rivers to open up, and for winter’s grip to be pried from the land.

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By the way, it was -24F at the cabin on Monday morning.  Not too hard to figure out why I’m getting a bit stir crazy, surrounded by nothing but snow.  At 4pm, the temp had risen to +26F: A fifty degree swing.  “Springtime” in Alaska.


Naknek, Alaska

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Looking out over Naknek from the Tribal Hall

Naknek sits along the shore of the Naknek River, where the river flows into Kvichak Arm of Bristol Bay.

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Bristol Bay is Alaska’s famed salmon waters.  It is the world’s most productive salmon fishery.  Naknek is home to both Trident and Peter Pan Seafoods, among many others.

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Hiking along the shore of the Naknek River

Naknek lies less than 20 road miles from King Salmon, which is also on the Naknek River.  It’s definitely fishing country, with over 75% of the jobs in fisheries.

When we visited, the town had only begun to get ready for the fishing season.  Many were worried about what the Corvid-19 virus was going to do to the industry.  At the time, Alaska had no known cases of the virus, but Washington State was already a hotbed.  Many summer workers come up from Washington every year.  Concerns were rampant, and not unexpected.

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The nightlife hotspot of Naknek

The community was welcoming and open about their unique lifestyle on Bristol Bay.  Naknek has a population of less than 600 in the winter months, but explodes to around 15,000 during the summer.  I have always wanted to visit the area in the summer, it must be absolutely beautiful.  The sockeye runs are a major temptation, but I simply could not imagine so many people in such a confined space as Naknek.  There is a nearby alternative, but more on that in a future post.

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Naknek, circa 1946; Naknek Native Tribal Council

 

 


Flying PenAir

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PenAir’s Saab2000

I flew out to King Salmon on PenAir, also known as Peninsula Airways.  I’ve always liked PenAir and their Saab 2000’s, although the airline is now under the Ravn banner.  The twin engine turboprop usually offers a smooth ride out to some of Alaska’s more remote locations.

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The Alaska Airlines & PenAir terminal at King Salmon, Alaska

We landed in King Salmon, and drove over to Naknek.  This is fishing country, both commercial & sport.  Salmon is king here.  Anti Pebble Mine signs were everywhere.  No surprise that the fishing communities did not want to see the world’s largest open pit mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

We located our accommodations for our stay, only to find out that there was no heat in the building.  Only in Alaska would the proprietor think that heat was an option.  After scouring Naknek, we ended up back in King Salmon for our room & board.

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Inside the Saab2000

Sitting in the emergency row on the Saab2000 does not really offer much of an advantage.  It definitely cuts down on the view.

 

 


Doing the wave

I spent close to ten days in King Salmon and Naknek earlier in the month.  Everyone waves at you out there on the shoreline of Bristol Bay.  They wave when you’re driving; they wave when you’re walking, or riding a snowmachine, or simply standing around enjoying being off the grid.

Now, I am back in Fairbanks, and as predicted, the habit of waving at every car I pass has become a habit.  It would seem that Fairbanks isn’t quite as friendly as I thought.  Or at least not as much as a small fishing community.  Yet, I’m determined to continue to wave at strangers until I get one to wave back.

Social distancing in Alaska.