Introduction to the Copper River Delta

Imagine thousands of shorebirds flying in unison over mudflats, after converging on the delta during their northern migration. Terrestrial animals such as bears and moose can (or cannot!) be seen in the tall brush. Coho and sockeye salmon arrive from an exhausting journey to the waterways of the delta to spawn. These are examples, to name a few, of the immense springtime diversity that exists in the Copper River Delta. I was at a loss for words when I saw on a map that the greater Copper River Delta ecosystem includes 2.3 million acres! The majority of the Copper River Delta is part of the Chugach National Forest. The land is managed for fish, wildlife and their habitats by the USDA Forest Service. In fact the Forest Service works with a variety of state and federal agencies as well as Native and private corporations. As with the sheer size of the territory and diversity of the area, I am honored that I will be a part of these conservation efforts.

I am located in a small commercial fishing community west of the Copper River Delta. The town of Cordova is 140 miles east (or a 45 minute plane ride) from Anchorage. When I first arrived here I noticed that the area was surrounded by tall mountains, an evergreen forest, and constant clouds. My supervisor informed me that Cordova is very wet. About 160 inches of precipitation falls annually! That is so much rain and snow! All the precipitation and the glacial runoff from the north is vital for the delta’s ecosystem. It provides the fauna and flora with the essential habitat and food resources they need to survive.

(Here I am snowshoeing with my supervisor’s dog, Olive. Behind me is Cordova and the small Spike Island) 

So far I have been able to enjoy a few days of sunshine. Last week I was able to go snowshoeing for the first time! It was a blast, to say the least! As I waddled up the trail I explored a bit more of the alpine side of Cordova and observed the Heney Range from up close. According to the locals, the Heney Range is the shortest mountain range in North America, extending for only 13 miles! Some hikers have been able to hike the entire range in a day! Perhaps I can try it some time. When my supervisor and I were in the meadows portion of the trail we sledded part of it. I was fortunate enough to have arrived when I did because lately the temperature has risen by a handful of degrees which has melted some snow. As spring approaches and we gain daylight, I am excited to try out the multitude of trails that Cordova and the Copper River Delta has to offer. I am also looking forward to seeing the arrival of spring migrants, especially the shorebirds!

Hillary Chavez
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