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YUKON DELTA AND RELATIONSHIP

May 23rd, by bswimme

This particular image is from the Yukon Delta, where the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers empty into the Bering Sea on the west coast of Alaska. There are only a couple dozen major river deltas on the entire surface of Earth, each one a spectacular interweaving of Earth’s processes.


The Yukon Delta is a gathering of waters. Takhim River, Pelly River, Tatuluk River, Bluefish River, Beaver Creek, Kantishna River, Kateel River, Batza River and a hundred other tributaries join with the meltwater from Llewellyn glacier and flow together to form the Yukon Delta. When the freshwater meets the frigid saltwater of the Bering Sea the minerals that have been carried hundreds and thousands of miles sink to the bottom where they slowly build up into sediment beds. As these beds swell in size the river turns in a new direction and forms distributaries that find they own pathways to the sea. Thus it is that the Yukon river itself creates its intricate maze of waterways and islands and small lakes over a sixty mile stretch from one end of the delta to the other.

When the tundra begins to melt in the late spring, life gathers together. The grasses and lichen cover the ground, insects buzz in the air, Northern Collared Lemmings scurry and Hoary Marmots fidget as Tundra Swans and Emperor Geese and Northern Shovelers and Stellar’s Eiders and Long-billed Dowitchers preen and parade along with two million other shorebirds who come here to feed and mate after their long and dangerous journeys. And while the sky shakes with the songs of their love-making, the waters splash with the adult salmon rushing through the waterways after their ten thousand mile adventure even as their cousins, the tiny salmon smolts, innocently slip past them in the other direction as they prepare for their own ocean journey.

Imagine that this great festival of life has been going on each summer for the last million years. Imagine what it must have been like, fifteen thousand years ago, when the Emmonak and the Alakanuk and the Kotlik and the Nunum Iqua people first arrived here and witnessed this. They must have felt as if they had found that very place where life weaves itself into existence.