From the bumpy dirt strip where small aircraft land and take off, about three-and-a-half miles of even bumpier dirt and gravel road threads through the village of Chignik Lake. This photograph was taken at the road’s terminus, the boat landing about four miles up the river from the ocean estuary and about two miles downriver from the village. Nine, 10 and even 11-foot tides push enough water up the river that we sometimes see ice and other objects flowing backwards up the lake.
Tides aren’t something we’re accustomed to thinking of on rivers, but we quickly learned that you’ve got to be mindful when it comes to parking your skiff: a rising tide will snatch away an unsecured boat; a falling tide can leave a skiff high and dry. Relaunching is no fun if the vessel has much weight to it. And you’ve got to be careful running the Chignik on a low tide. “Million Dollar River,” it’s been called for all the props and lower units it’s claimed over the years.
Fairly large boats are able to navigate the river on the big tides. Barges deliver building supplies, personal vehicles, heavy equipment and fuel to the landing – stuff that won’t fit on a small bush plane but that is necessary for building and maintaining a semi-wilderness village. Without these flood tides, there wouldn’t be a village here. You’ve got to watch where you park your truck though. (I bumped up the ISO on this hand-held shot. January 14, 2018. Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/200 @ f/8, ISO 1000, 70mm.)