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SELAWIK:Landslide MuddiesKey Refuge River
Alaska Region, December 27, 2006
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Aerial view of landslide on the upper Selawik River, August 2006. Photo by Steve Hillebrand.
Aerial view of landslide on the upper Selawik River, August 2006. Photo by Steve Hillebrand. - Photo Credit: n/a
View of landslide from the ground, August 2005. Photo by USFWS staff.
View of landslide from the ground, August 2005. Photo by USFWS staff. - Photo Credit: n/a
The now silt-laden Selawik River contrasts sharply with its clearwater tributary, the Taggagvik River, August 2006. Photo by Steve Hillebrand.
The now silt-laden Selawik River contrasts sharply with its clearwater tributary, the Taggagvik River, August 2006. Photo by Steve Hillebrand. - Photo Credit: n/a

In spring 2004 the earth collapsed along the upper Selawik River, spewing mud and silt into the water and pushing the river against its far bank.  Gooey sediment from the landslide turned the clear upper Selawik River into an opaque, turbid stream.  Although more than two years have passed since the landslide, mud and silt continue to drain into the river, especially during warmer summer months. 

Important spawning grounds for sheefish and other whitefish stretch for miles along the upper Selawik River downstream of the landslide.  What effects might the increased sediment in the river have on spawning habitat and water chemistry?  To answer this question,   Fish and Wildlife Service staff are teaming with researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to explore the geology of the area for clues as to what triggered the slide.  They will also analyze water samples to determine the effect of the muddy outflow on the river. Monitoring changes in the landslide and water quality will occur over the next several years. 

No residences are located near the landslide so its immediate effect on humans was small.  However, Iñupiaq residents of the lower Selawik River depend heavily on sheefish and whitefish for subsistence and hunt and fish in the upper river area so any disruption to fish habitat on the upper river is cause for concern. Stay tuned as this natural process unfolds!


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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