Today we drove to Valdez down the Richardson Highway. It is an incredibly beautiful drive. We were lucky that the sun was shining so we could see all the mountains and glaciers. The 90 mile drive took several hours because we kept stopping to enjoy the scenery.
The third picture shows a piece of the Trans-Alaska pipeline (which terminates in Valdez) which runs beside a part of the road. The 5th picture is Worthington Glacier (that little dot is Leslie). The 7th picture is Blueberry Lake. The 4th and 8th pictures are 27 mile glacier (we think it was named that because it is 27 miles from Valdez). The 9th picture is near the entrance of Keystone Canyon, a three mile canyon that has beautiful waterfalls. The next picture is Bridal Veil falls.
We stopped at the Solomon Gulch fish hatchery and watched the salmon trying to go upstream. The hatchery has a permitted green egg capacity to incubate 230 million pink salmon and 2 million coho salmon each year. These egg capacities are strictly controlled by the State of Alaska. With this capacity, they achieve annual releases of approximately 218 million pink salmon fry and 1.75 million coho salmon smolt. Egg take or spawning happens in late summer. Hatchery staff may spawn as many as 16,000 adult brood stock each day. These fish return to the hatchery spawning building by entering the facility using a fish ladder, which carry the fish from salt water to raceways on shore.
Over the winter, the hatchery staff tends to the eggs as they hatch into alevin and settle into simulated gravel to subsist from their yolk sacs. In early spring, the fry emerge and are ready to go to sea. They pump the fry to net pens off shore where the fry are fed using commercial salmon feeds until they reach a target weight of at least 0.5 grams. From there, they are released to complete their life cycle in the open sea. This process is known as ocean ranching. The adults, which average about 3.5 pounds each, return the following summer, and the process starts all over again.
Average adult returns to the hatchery are approximately 13 million adult pink and 160,000 coho salmon. After harvesting a small percentage of the return for cost recovery and brood stock, the remainder is harvested primarily by the commercial purse seine fishermen (and the Stellar sea lions that post themselves outside the fish ladder).