If You Build it They Will Come

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When I first moved to Juneau, I was surprised to find Gold Creek imprisoned in a concrete trough where no plant or fish could survive. Before white settlement, its waters carried flakes of gold downstream to be discovered by members of the Auke Tribe. One of them led Joe Juneau and another white prospector up the stream to a rich vein of gold that provided the economic engine for a new city named after Mr. Juneau. Long ago the gold played out. Now cruise ships form our economic mother lode.

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Perhaps to give our visitors something to photograph, the city placed small boulders in two parallel lines near the creek mouth. Storm surges carried gravel and sand down the creek to collect in the lee of the new boulder necklaces. The next summer chum and pink salmon began to spawn in the artificial reids. Salmon have returned each subsequent summer to spawn and die a few meters from the Foodland parking lot.

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The abundance of salmon flesh entices to the stream the parking lot ravens that normally haunt trash bins and the pickup beds of careless shoppers. Gulls form a circle around the ravens or look for a chance to reach a salmon carcass before one of the big-beaked birds. I watched a gull perch on a rock in mid-steam and plunge its head into the water to pull flesh off from a spawned-out fish while other gulls complained about his good fortune.

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