Sept. 18 landslides wipe out Starrigavan Valley watershed restoration projects

Starrigavan slide area (Photo courtesy USDA Forest Service)

Starrigavan slide area (Photo courtesy USDA Forest Service)

Heavy rains earlier this month triggered a series of landslides on Thursday, Sept. 18, that covered a 100-acre section of the Starrigavan Valley, a popular recreation area about 10 miles north of downtown Sitka.

While the three landslides caused no structural damage, they caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to USDA Forest Service watershed restoration projects, and caused extensive water damage to an ATV trail and several hiking trails in the area, including the Herring Cove Trail, according to a Sept. 24 news story on KCAW-Raven Radio.

Starrigavan slide area (Photo courtesy USDA Forest Service)

Starrigavan slide area (Photo courtesy USDA Forest Service)

According to a USDA Forest Service, Sitka Ranger District, preliminary analysis of the slides from Monday, Sept. 22, “The slide and its run out zone encompass approximately 75-100 acres, with an unknown number of additional acres also affected. The slide also directly impacted approximately 850m of Class I fish habitat along the mainstem North Fork Starrigavan Creek along with unknown lengths along several Class I tributaries. Other known damage at this time includes: three coho rearing ponds obliterated with one more severely impaired, two fish pipes blown out, one log stringer bridge destroyed, two trail sections blocked, and approximately 300 meters of OHV (ATV) trail/road eroded or buried.”

Both the Herring Cove Trail and the Starrigavan Valley were probably affected by what USDA Forest Service Watershed Program Coordinator Marty Becker calls a “micro-burst,” KCAW reported. Meteorological data for Sitka doesn’t indicate rainfall amounts too extraordinary for this time of year, but the rain came hard and fast. What was officially recorded as 3 1/2 inches of rain at the Sitka airport on the day the Herring Cove Trail was damaged, Becker says filled rain gauges in some parts of town to nearly seven inches.

Sitka naturalist Matt Goff, who writes the Sitka Nature blog, took his kids to check out the damage on the weekend after the slide, and he posted several photos on his blog showing trails that now look like small rivers, huge log piles full of uprooted trees, and other damage. He said there was an aerial map posted as you entered the area, showing which trails were impassable. He also wondered how the damage might have been different had there not been clearcutting in the area 40 years ago.

USDA Forest Service Recreation Manager Mike Mullin told KCAW, “The couple of events we’ve had this summer have been a little out of the ordinary for sure, but yeah, we’re not even in the rainy season, and we lose our seasonal crew in a couple of weeks. And obviously Forest Service budgets for maintaining trails are on the decline. So we’ve got a lot of things working against us.”

While there have been hikers and others out in the slide area recently, the USDA Forest Service said the soil is loose in many areas and still prone to slides, and it was delaying its final assessment of the damage until after the area settled. Even Goff said he had second thoughts about the safety of hiking in the area, especially after he had a chance to see some of his photos.

Posted in Kids and nature, Outdoor events, Outdoor programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SAIL Youth Adventure Club sets dates and activities for October and November

Youth Adventure Club Oct-Dec

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) will host events for its new ORCA Youth Adventure Club program from 3:30-5 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at various locations around Sitka.

The new ORCA Youth Adventure Club program in Sitka is for students in the second through eighth grades of all abilities and their parents. Participants will be exposed to a variety of outdoor activities. On Oct. 8 the club will host a scavenger hunt at Halibut Point Recreation Area. The next event will be on Nov. 12, when club members will go hiking at Whale Park. The winter activity for Dec. 10 will be announced later.

Each activity costs $10, and scholarships are available so no child is turned away because of cost. Transportation is available from the SAIL office (514 Lake Street), and snacks are available.

ORCA, which stands for Outdoor Recreation and Community Access, provides year-round recreation and community access programs for people of all ages who experience a disability. We focus on socialization, team-building, and having fun outside.

While the main purpose of ORCA is to provide a variety of opportunities for people with disabilities to get outdoors and enjoy life, several ORCA members from other Southeast communities have gone on to compete in local and even international events. A pair of former ORCA adult program athletes from Juneau (Joe TompkinsSeth McBride, both paralyzed from the waist down) have gone on to compete in the Paralympics in skiing (Tompkins) and quad rugby (McBride). There also have been ORCA teams participating in events such as the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay and local fun runs and cycling events. McBride recently completed a 10,000-mile handcycle trip from Portland, Ore., to Patagonia, Argentina.

To learn more about the Youth Adventure Club and other programs, contact Bridget Kratz of SAIL at 747-6859 or The calendar below includes hiking, biking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• October 2014 calendar of Sitka SAIL events

Posted in Kids and nature, Outdoor events, Outdoor programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitka Sound Science Center to host ‘Squishy Hike’ for young naturalists on Oct. 1

Party Poster Big 3

As part of the Scientists in the Schools program, the Sitka Sound Science Center will host a “Squishy Hike” group at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Thimbleberry Trailhead. Select carpool space is available from the science center at 4:15 p.m.

Students will join visiting Scientists in the Schools presenter Tania Spurkland, who works for the Seldovia Village Tribe, and is visiting local fourth-grade classes to teach the students about healthy watersheds. They will explore stream macroinvertebrates and collect samples from the lake. After the hike, the students will take their treasures back to the science center where they’ll look at them under microscopes. To learn more about Tania’s lessons, click this link to listen to a KCAW-Raven Radio story about her 2013 visit to Sitka.

Party Poster Big 2Also, don’t forget the Sitka WhaleFest is coming up on Nov. 6-9 and the Sitka Sound Science Center will host a WhaleFest volunteer meeting from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30. Anybody who is interested in helping out with the festival or Scientists in the Schools program, please attend the meeting to learn about all the amazing opportunities. There will be pizza.

If you are unable to attend the meeting and still want to volunteer, please contact Sitka Sound Science Center Education Manager Ashley Bolwerk or Science Outreach Coordinator Madi Kosma at 747-8878. For more information about the Squishy Hike, contact Ashley at

Posted in Kids and nature, Outdoor events, Outdoor programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitka National Historical Park celebrates ‘Helping Hands for America’s Lands’ during National Public Lands Day on Sept. 27


SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK – On Saturday, Sept. 27, tens of thousands of volunteers will visit their favorite parks, beaches, wildlife preserves, or forests and chip in to help improve these treasured places. They will be taking part in the 21st annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in our country. This event brings together thousands of volunteers from coast to coast to improve and restore the lands and facilities that Americans use for recreation, education, exercise and just plain enjoyment.

Join volunteers and staff at Sitka National Historical Park as we celebrate this annual event in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy and Turning the Tides as a way to contribute to the International Coastal Cleanup Day. Together we will use our hands to clean up our park and nearby beaches while keeping an eye out for interesting or unusual coastal debris. Bring some water, a friend, and a willingness to give back to your community.


  • Park Cleanup1-2:30 p.m. — Meet at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center at 1 p.m. for some light refreshments. We will meet with Ashley Bolwerk from the Sitka Sound Science Center who will give a short introduction about the importance of cleaning up beaches followed by a joint effort to clean up trash in the park. There will be awards for all volunteers and a Golden Ticket Hunt for youth participants. Trash bags, safety vests, and protective gloves will be provided.
  • Park Prescriptions Prize Drawing2:30 p.m. — The Sitka Community Hospital Foundation will sponsor a quarterly drawing for a $100 cash prize for qualified Park Prescriptions participants. Information about how to sign up for this healthy initiative will also be available.
  • Photo Contest Awards — The winners of the park’s annual photo contest will be announced during the National Public Lands Day event. All photos will be on display in the Visitor Center lobby through Alaska Day on Saturday, Oct. 18.

To learn more about this nationwide celebration, visit

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more about the Sitka National Historical Park at or visit our Facebook page at

Posted in Kids and nature, Outdoor events, Outdoor programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

20th annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run raises funds for Sitka Local Foods Network


It’s time to dig your XtraTufs out of the closet and gussy them up. The 20th annual Running of the Boots begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, at the big tent near St. Michael of the Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Lincoln Street.

This will be the second year featuring a new meeting point and course, allowing the race to be a bigger part of the End-of-Season Celebration festivities hosted downtown by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Cruise Line Association.

“I’m excited about the Running of the Boots joining the End-of-Season folks under one big tent … literally,” race organizer Kerry MacLane said. “We’ll have music, hot chocolate, and folks can enjoy a complimentary lunch after oodles of prizes have been awarded.”

So what is the Running of the Boots? It’s Southeast Alaska’s answer to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls.” Sitkans wear zany costumes and XtraTufs — Southeast Alaska’s distinctive rubber boots (aka, Sitka Sneakers). The Running of the Boots raises funds for the Sitka Local Foods Network, a nonprofit organization that hosts the Sitka Farmers Market and advocates for community gardens, a community greenhouse, sustainable uses of traditional subsistence foods and education for Sitka gardeners.

The Running of the Boots is a short race for fun and not for speed, even though one of the many prize categories is for the fastest boots. Other prize categories include best-dressed boots, zaniest costume, best couple, best kids group and more. The new course starts by St. Michael’s Cathedral, and heads down Lincoln Street toward City Hall, takes a left on Harbor Drive and loops up Maksoutov Street and back to the starting line.

The entry fee for the Running of the Boots is $5 per person and $20 per family, and people can register for the race starting at 10 a.m. Costume judging starts about 10:30 a.m., and runners hit the streets at 11 a.m. As usual, local merchants have donated bushels of prizes for the costume contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a Sitka Farmers Market booth with fresh veggies for sale. The booth takes debit cards, WIC vouchers and Alaska Quest electronic benefit cards.

“This is a really fun way to advance the Sitka Farmers Market and our other Sitka Local Foods Network projects,” MacLane said. “This is a must-see annual change-of-the season tradition in Sitka.”

To learn more about the Running of the Boots, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or 747-7888, or by email at

Historical information about the race (through 2005) can be found online at Info about the Sitka Local Foods Network and more recent Running of the Boots events (2008-13) is online at (type Running of the Boots into the search bar at the top of the page). Click here to see a slideshow of scenes from last year’s event.

Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page at to stay updated on Sitka Local Foods Network activities.

Posted in Kids and nature, Outdoor events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Natural History Seminar Series to feature presentation on Mushrooms of Alaska’s Southern Coasts


The next topic of the Natural History Seminar Series will feature Kate Mohatt presenting “Mushrooms of Alaska’s Southern Coasts.” The presentation is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday Sept. 19, in Room 229 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

Kate Mohatt is an ecologist for the Chugach National Forest who has been studying fungi in Montana and Alaska for several years. She has been a key organizer in the Girdwood Fungus Fair and a frequent speaker at the Tongass Rainforest Festival in Petersburg. Mohatt is the lead author of the 2013 publication, Mushrooms of the National Forests in Alaska (available at the USDA Forest Service, Sitka Ranger District office in Sitka, 204 Siginaka Way).

Mohatt will talk about the importance of fungi in forests, and about some common and interesting fungi found in Alaska. She also will lead a walk focused on forest fungi on Saturday, Sept. 20, in Sitka, with details shared at the Friday night seminar.

The seminar series is supported by a grant from the Sitka Permanent Charitable Trust to the Sitka Sound Science Center, and by the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus with support from the USDA Forest Service. If you have questions, please contact Kitty LaBounty at 747-9432.

Posted in Outdoor events, Outdoor programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitka National Historical Park to host garden party Saturday at Russian Bishop’s House


Volunteer gardener Karen Christner, right, in period costume, leads a tour of the Russian Bishop’s House garden in September 2013.

The Sitka National Historical Park will host a garden party starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Russian Bishop’s House garden.

Volunteer gardener Karen Christner and Ranger Jasa Woods will present a 45-minute program on the history of the Russian Bishop’s House garden and how its tradition is carried on today. During the spring, kindergarten students from Baranof Elementary School plant the garden. In the fall, the students return as first-graders to harvest the produce.

Attendees are invited early for hot tea and Russian tea cakes. Seating and shelter from the rain will be provided. For more information, call the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center at 747-0110.

Posted in Kids and nature, Outdoor events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment