English Composition/Homer, Alaska term paper 4095

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Where the land ends and the sea begins

Homer is the hub of the lower Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, an area incomparably rich in natural wonders and recreational possibilities.

The Kenai Peninsula is an Alaska in miniature, a combination of mountain and meadow, coastline and island. The backbone of the peninsula is the Kenai Mountain Range, which separates the rolling hills and salmon streams from the Gulf of Alaska and cradles the 1,000 square mile Harding Icefield, a trackless inland ocean of 3 million-year-old ice.

Around Homer, rolling hills and ridges overlook Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. Bears, wolves and moose roam the uplands; dozens of species of birds gather each spring to feed on the mudflats at the head of the bay.

Until the early 1950s, Homer was accessible only by boat, airplane or driving the stony beach from Kenai. Paved road now strings together the coastal towns of Ninilchik, Anchor Point and Homer, affording impressive views of volcanic Mount Iliamna, rising more than 10,000 feet above the sea, and Mount Redoubt, which became active again in 1989 after a couple decades of slumber.

Across Kachemak Bay, fabulously rich in marine life, mountains, glaciers and steep-walled fjords dramatically drop into the ocean. When wrapped in mist, the thick stands of spruce and hemlock lend an ethereal air to the secluded coves and bays. Seldovia, Nanwalek and Port Graham are ensconced in such sheltered recesses at the tip of the peninsula.

The Southern Peninsula offers visitors an unparalleled blend of the wild and the picturesque, of vigorous life amid immemorial beauty, where glimpses of an eagle soaring, a salmon charging the rapids, or a sunset burnishing the mountain crests leave impressions that can never fade.

Homer's population has grown to nearly 5,000 people, and the city serves as a trading and service center for nearly 10,000. It has a modern hospital, newspapers, public and commercial radio stations, a movie theater, thriving commercial and sport fishing fleets, and a high school that was honored in 1989 as one of the best in the nation.

The Kachemak Bay area is the arts capital of South-central Alaska. An impressive group of professional and amateur artists provide residents with art shows, dance, music and drama throughout the year. The Homer Council on the Arts also regularly brings nationally- and internationally known performers to Homer. The area's major industry is commercial fishing, which pumps nearly $30 million a year into the local economy. But tourism is rapidly becoming an important supplement. The two industries thrive side by side in the Homer Small Boat Harbor.

Summer or winter, there is no lack of interesting activities, challenging sports and breathtaking scenery to enjoy. Recreational and cultural opportunities can be as varied as fishing for halibut off Yukon Island in July to enjoying modern dance during the Spring Arts Festival, held every April, to skiing the cross-country trails during January. We know you will enjoy your stay on the lower Kenai Peninsula and hope that this guide will add to your pleasure while you stay in our community.

Kachemak Bay

Some say it means "Smoky Bay," some claim it means "Highcliff Bay." The Aleuts called it "Smoking Bay" because of the smoldering deposits of coal woven throughout the tall bluffs. The Russians called the Kenai Peninsula "Summerland" because of its temperate climate and mild winters. Homer residents have called the area the "Shangri-La of Alaska" since the early 1930s because of its dramatic setting and spectacular scenery.

The Spit

An Inseparable Facet of Life in Homer

The Homer Spit is a gift of geological forces - a natural jetty, of sorts, sticking several miles out into Kachemak Bay. Homer is here because the Spit is here. It is a source of artistic energy, a place to relax and get in touch with the rhythm of wind and wave and a vibrant economic center.

By almost any measure, the city's economic future is tied to the Spit. Homer's commercial and sport-fishing fleets ply Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet for the ocean's bounty. A bustling port and a thriving tourist industry in the summer add to its active atmosphere.

The Homer Small Boat Harbor, operated by the city, offers approximately 800 individual stalls and 4,000 linear feet of transient moorage tie-up space. The inner-harbor depth is dredged to -10 feet at the west end down to -20 feet at the east (channel entrance) end. Vessel operators are requested to the Harbormaster on VHF Channel 16 prior to entering the harbor.

All harbor users are required to register their vessel with the Harbormaster's Office, located at Ramp No. 2. The office provides information on vessel safety, registration and other marine and tourist-related areas. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary monitors CB Channel 09 during the summer months and is also capable of performing courtesy safety inspections of your vessel. A 24-hour recorded weather forecast is available by dialing 235-5600 or at the transmitter located on the outside of the Harbormaster's office. For further information on facilities and services available, call the Harbormaster at 235-3160.

To make life easier for tourists and recreational fishermen, the city has added a large fish-cleaning table, restroom facilities, high-mast lights and additional parking for boats, trailers and cars. All the improvements have gone a long way toward making the Homer Spit an enjoyable place for visitors and locals.

Local residents are determined to preserve the unique blend of uses that makes the Homer Spit a combination of tourist destination, sport-fishing center, one of the busiest commercial fishing ports in the North Pacific, and perhaps a transportation hub for South-central Alaska, as well as a place where you can fly a kite on a quiet beach.

The fauna and the flora

Kachemak Bay is teeming with birds. Year round, bird watchers can enjoy viewing a wide variety of bird species. Springtime features a fantastic shorebird migration, with approximately 100,000 shorebirds passing through Mud Bay each year during the first two weeks of May. As the largest shorebird migration on the road system, it is celebrated during the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in early May. The festival is typically in early May. A new feature being offered is the Kachemak Bay Birdwatchers Hotline. Information regarding recent sightings and birding activities and events may be obtained while messages regarding personal sightings may be left.

The National Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird count last year counted 12,663 birds and 64 species, including the red-faced cormorant, marbled murrelet, boreal chickadee, glaucous-winged gull, common redpoll, black-capped chickadee, dark-eyed junco, pine grosbeak, grey crowned rosy finch, rock sandpiper, steller eider, oldsquaw and common loon.

A favorite destination of charter operators is Gull Island near Halibut Cove, site of a rookery for 12,000 seabirds, including pigeon guillemots, marbled murrelets, Kittlitz's murrelets, common murres, black-legged kittiwakes, cormorants, glaucous-winged gulls and tufted puffins. Shoreline habitats attract eagles, common eiders, loons, harlequin ducks and mergansers.

Mammals in the backyard

Kachemak Bay is home to an abundance of sea and land animals. Minke and killer whales, harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters swim in the western waters of the park. Black bear, moose, coyote, mountain goats, and a few red fox inhabit some of the land area. While they are not pets, moose and bear make appearances in town at times. Those occasions afford visitors easy opportunities to see them up close - but not too close.

World Famous Angling

The Kenai Peninsula supports about 40 percent of the recreational fishing in Alaska, and much of that effort is focused right here - with good reason.

Homer is known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World, a testament to the abundance of the large, bottom-dwelling flatfish. Whole-day and half-day fishing trips and charters give the novice or the expert angler the chance to catch fish that are routinely 30 and 40 pounds, often exceed 100 pounds and are known for ranging up above 200 and 300 pounds. The record is 440 pounds.

The area also is known for its rod-bending king salmon, which can provide the thrill of a lifetime. King salmon typically reach 20 and 30 pounds and range up to the record 97 lbs., 4 ounces. Red, silver and pink salmon also make for fine fishing and tantalizing eating.

Steelhead, trout and Dolly Varden are other favorites. Crabs, clams and shrimp also are abundant.

You can land the trophy of your desire and view whales, otters, seals, ducks, geese, cranes, seabirds, moose, mountains, volcanoes and glaciers at the same time. It gives fishing a new dimension.

Fishing on the Lower Peninsula goes on nearly year-round - some avid anglers brave the cold to fish for "feeder" king salmon in saltwater throughout the winter. But most people figure the fishing season starts in May, when halibut move into the bay and kings start biting for saltwater trollers along the beaches of Anchor Point, Deep Creek and Ninilchik. King salmon season usually begins on Lower Peninsula streams the last weekend in May, usually the start of several three-day openings. Freshwater angling continues until ice crowds out the steelhead fisherman.

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