Rainforest Festival

Every September Petersburg hosts a Rainforest Festival, far enough into the month that it’s obviously not for tourists – they’ve all gone south by then.  The Festival is all about science with lectures, field trips, hands-on learning and activities for kids.  There are so many things to do and see – it can be hard to choose, yet still easy to fill a long weekend.

The artists headed up the Stikine River for some plein air painting and berry picking, the mushroom lovers spent time with a mycologist (“just call me the Fungus guy”) to learn about common as well as rare mushrooms that grow in our rainforest (and to collect edible ones). People took guided boat trips to the Baird glacier gravel bars, and I joined a field trip to our local salmon hatchery.The outflow of the mountain lake that provides much of our hydro-electric power also supports the cooperative salmon hatchery – this one raises king (chinook) and some coho (silver) salmon for sport fishing.  1.6 million eggs are incubating, and the fish are raised until they are just a few inches long before they’re released at the head of several creeks in the region.  Hatcheries use eggs and sperm from wild fish to help improve the percentage of eggs that grown into adult fish – available for marine predators as well as sport fishermen.

We attended an excellent lecture by a local Forest Service hydrologist who spoke about the nature of salmon streams that make them good habitat for the fish to successfully reproduce… and then the hydrologist took us on a field trip out the road to a salmon stream that was severely disturbed by logging back in the 1960s.  The hydrologist’s job has been play detective – analyzing terrain that has been heavily overgrown to understand what happened to the stream over 50 years ago, and what subtle modifications (if any) would restore the stream to its original characteristics for good salmon habitat.  Of course it rained.  But no self-respecting southeast Alaskan would go out without good rain gear and brown boots.  Well, most.  The hydrologist’s wife and daughters came along, and the little girls didn’t want to wear raincoats.  Instead, they made umbrellas from giant skunk cabbage leaves and stayed pretty dry.I chose a kayak trip up Petersburg Creek instead of learning to make fish skin leather, taking advantage of the big tide needed to get up the creek.  We were led by a fisheries biologist who talked about the different sizes of gravel and bottom composition that each type of salmon species prefers, and we could easily see through the clear water.  Coho were leaping and a few sport fishermen were enjoying success… as were the bears.  We saw 5 as we paddled and rode the flood tide up the creek.And yes, that’s rain in the photo.  It’s a rainforest, and we really need the water after such a dry summer.It’s a beautiful creek, accessible all the way up (about 6 miles) only on a big tide.

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