Rain or Shine: Salmon Camp makes the Summer Brighter for Kodiak Kids

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The kids of Kodiak, Alaska are no stranger to rain. Bundled in several layers and shielded by rain jackets, rain pants, and rain onesies in every color of the rainbow, these Salmon Campers are just as happy to be at camp on a rainy day as on a sunny one. The City of Kodiak averages about 78 inches of precipitation per year, nearly 3 times the national average. But, since its inception in 1996, Salmon Camp has never been cancelled due to rain, even during especially rainy years, like the one we're having now.

Education Specialist, Shelly Lawson, teaches campers how to use a fishing rod on the banks of Buskin River.

What is Salmon Camp?

The mission of Salmon Camp is to educate Kodiak’s youth about the natural and cultural systems that define Kodiak’s geography and empower learners to investigate their own connections to this special place through hands-on learning, self-reflection and group discovery. Salmon Camp is traditionally held at the Buskin Beach House at the Buskin River State Recreation Site, but campers spend the majority of the week outside learning in and about nature. Salmon Camp consists of 5 week-long sessions in town, each for a different age group. Salmon camp staff will also make trips to five of our remote communities to provide camp to children of all ages. This year's overarching camp theme is habitat with special recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Campers will create art that features species of concern for the Alaska region which will culminate with an art show at the Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center on Friday August 4th from 5-7pm. Camp lessons also integrate Alutiiq language, wildlife of Kodiak, bear safety, fishing, wilderness survival,  nature journaling, and much more.

A Wet First Camp for Kindergarten and 1st Graders.

The campers at session one of Salmon Camp will be attending Kindergarten or 1st grade in the fall. For most session one campers, this was their first experience with Salmon Camp. Each session has a unique theme, and campers do different activities and crafts depending on their age, but one constant for all age groups is a day spent learning to fish. Being Kodiak kids, many already know how to cast a line, but even the campers that start from scratch are eager to take their new skills home to their parents and siblings by the end of the day. In previous years, the kindergarten and first grade age group has fished "the magic river," a pretend river with paper fish and magnetic lures. This year, however, campers of all ages will have the opportunity to fish for real salmon near the mouth of Buskin River. During session one, the youngest campers braved the rain and cold better than most adults, and practiced their cast using push button fishing rods with modified hooks alongside Refuge staff and volunteers. Unfortunately, no one reeled in a fish during session 1, but camp instructors did hear reports of a few nibbles. Kids under the age of 16 don't legally need a fishing license, but campers always make their own license anyway and the state trooper who stopped by deemed them all legal young anglers.

A Salmon Camper and her fishing license.

More Camps Ahead!

The second and third graders at session two of camp also had a rainy day of fishing, and although the parents and camp instructors are probably hoping for sunshine at future camps, the kids don't seem to mind.

Salmon Camp registration is by lottery every spring. Learn more on our website or by contacting Education Specialist, Shelly Lawson at michelle_lawson@fws.gov or 907-487-0283.

A salmon camp assistant shows campers how to use a fishing rod.

Story Tags

Environmental education

Recreational Activities