To the south, Eyak Lake drains into Eyak River which flows for six miles before entering the western Copper River Delta, eventually reaching the Gulf of Alaska.
The temperate rainforests surrounding Eyak Lake show the interchange between forest and ocean, and these natal coastal rainforest streams make an ideal spawning site for Pacific salmon. The path from Eyak River to Eyak Lake to Power Creek is the principal salmon spawning route of Eyak Lake.
Power Creek is an 11-mile stream fed by Scott Glacier that extends from the northeastern tip of Eyak Lake. Here, salmon both build the strength to survive in marine waters and eventually return to spawn. As snow and glaciers melt, the stream fills with sediment and turquoise water. This makes it challenging for fish to see their prey, meaning excess glacier runoff threatens the survival of salmon.
Trumpeter Swan (Olor buccinator) Approximately 10% of the world's trumpeter swans nest in the Copper River Delta area in the spring. About 100 swans winter over on Eyak Lake.
Dusky Canada Geese (Branta canadensis occidentalis) "Duskies" --in long term decline because of habitat changes--nest in the Copper River Delta and winter in the Willamette Valley area near Eugene, Oregon
Migratory Birds Approximately 4.5-5 million use the Copper River Delta as a migratory stopover. Over 235 species of birds have been identified during this migration.
Scavenger Birds Scavengers play an important role in an evolving ecosystem. By eating carrion and "cleaning" the environment, they add to ecosystem vitality. In Alaska, this means a symbiotic relationship with bears and larger birds.
BROWN BEARS (Ursus arctos) Alaska's brown bears number upwards of 30,000 with density in the Chugach area thought to be highest in late summer and early fall as salmon come into streams. In the lower 48 states, brown bears are called grizzlies; in Alaska, the brown bear is the largest of the charismatic megafauna.
Brown bears grow up to 1500 pounds and range in color from light cinnamon to dark brown. Litter sizes range from one to four, with twins being most common.
Brown bears are often seen along Power Creek, the northern area of Eyak Lake.
BLACK BEARS (Ursus americanus) in Alaska are the most common bear species in the state. In the Eyak Lake area, black bears can be found near the lake in summer and fall. They hibernate approximately five months; longer in colder climes. Warming temperature trends affect hibernation and food availability, which in turn affect ability to mate and how long mothers rear young.
Black bears grow up to 350 pounds and are the most abundant bear species.
SITKA SPRUCE Picea sitchensis The Sitka Spruce is the state tree of Alaska and the tallest conifer in the world. Researchers find that Sitkas near salmon spawning streams often contain the DNA of salmon as the nitrogen content of decaying fish is absorbed by the tree.
SALMONBERRY Rubus spectabilis Rich in Vitamin C, salmonberries range from yellow to deep red and are found throughout the Chugach mountain range.
FIREWEED Chamaenerion angustifolium is known for tall stalks blooming from bottom to top. The stalk and flowers have a long history of use in traditional knowledge. Fireweed blooms along Eyak Lake and around Cordova roadways.
Salmon live an average of 4 to 5 years, traveling from their nascent stream to the ocean, then back to spawn and die. As they return to Eyak Lake and find their way up Power Creek.
GROUND AND WATER
RETREATING GLACIERS IN THE EYAK LAKE REGION
“How the climate has been changing over the past few decades of anthropogenic influence really has manifest itself quite well. It provides tangible evidence for how climate change is affecting the landscapes.”
Shad O'Neel, head of the glacier research program at the USGS Alaska Science Center on retreating Alaskan glaciers, in "Alaska's Glaciers are Retreating" Climate Wire September 30, 2016
ELODEA Elodea canadensis commonly known as waterweed, is an invasive plant that was first spotted in Alaska in Eyak Lake in 1982. The plant has since spread to other parts of the state, threatening native plants species and altering habitats as it grows. The U.S. Forest Service uses both removal and herbicide to combat this process, but Elodea can proliferate from just a fragment of a plant.
According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports in the last decade, biologists have estimated Eyak Lake provides an annual ex-vessel value for commercial harvests between $955,435 to $1,572,784.