The Salmon Have Returned To Cordova Once Again. They'll Be Upriver In A Few Days

 Copper River's Salmon Are Like Gold To The People Of Seattle...  But An Endless Sign Of Bounty For Alaskans  Fishing the Gulkana. (File...

 Copper River's Salmon Are Like Gold To The People Of Seattle... But An Endless Sign Of Bounty For Alaskans 

Fishing the Gulkana. (File Photo, Country Journal) 

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021.

COPPER RIVER SALMON ARRIVING
The salmon are flooding back into the Copper River.

As of May 23rd, the price of our river's salmon was astronomical on the open market. Pikes Place Fish Market in Seattle said sockeye salmon were reported selling for $50 a pound. Kings were selling for $75 a pound. 

Only a few days before, on the previous Monday, Craig Medred reported what he termed "sky high" prices. But they were far less – only $29 a pound for sockeyes and $38 a pound for kings; and those early rates were now beginning to look like a bargain.
 
In Seattle, the first arrival of Copper River salmon season is heralded as if the Alaska Airlines plane bringing the salmon south were a small boat entering the harbor loaded down with gold from the Klondike in the 1890's. 

In Klondike days, the very first miners from the gold fields staggered off their little ships, the Excelsior and Portland, into the small cities of the west coast – Seattle and San Francisco. The miners were laden with bags of gold dust; proof of the possibility of riches from the northlands.

The men held the heavy bags of gold up high for all to see. Today, in the very same way, the first Copper River salmon is hoisted up on the Seattle tarmac, and displayed as a prize. 

Copper River salmon for sale at a Fred Meyer Alaskan store. (File photo, Journal) 


1885: THE FISH ARRIVE AT HISTORIC BATZELNETUS
It takes awhile for the fish to travel up the 300-mile long raging Copper River. But they'll be here in our territory soon, in the Copper River Valley. 

The first written record of salmon arriving in the upper Copper River Valley was chronicled in Lt. Henry T. Allen's report of his arduous journey through the region in 1885. 

Allen and his small band of men were having a terrible time of it as they pushed through the Copper River Valley and made their way north. Escorted by the chief of Gakona, they finally arrived at "By The Stumps" near Batzelnetus, northeast of the Gulkana River. It was the end of a very long spring day, on June 2nd.

Henry Allen had no idea where he was or that the timing of his arrival was significant. But the Upper Ahtna who were assembled there, patiently waiting for the first salmon of the season, knew that the fish were about to come in. 

Fred Ewan of Gulkana with salmon. (File photo, Journal) 

Soon enough, a dipnet did pull out a fish. And, reverentially and with extreme joy, the glorious summer season in the Copper Valley began anew, ending the long hard days of winter and spring. 

It's true that people in Cordova, Seattle and all over the world revere this river's fish. But the salmon of the valley are the core of local life, and have been for hundreds of years. And you can't put a price on that. 

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