The ebb and flow of a river

January 02, 2013 Posted by: Erica Francis

Throughout the winter, the Tayia River in Dyea continues to bring life and movement to the otherwise still, snowy landscape. In temperatures well below freezing, many creeks and rivers in the area freeze allowing for its community members to get out in the waning lights and spend some cold moments recreating.

Certainly this is true for the upper Tayia.  However, if you have spent much time walking the banks of the Dyea portion of the Tayia, it is apparent that even under days of freezing temperatures the tide still controls who can come play.


10/19/2012 11:49am                       vs.                  12/7/2012 2:36pm


12/29/2012 12:23pm                        vs.                  12/29/2012 3:03pm

Each hour is different for the river. Drive out at low or high slack tide and you might find a bed of ice stretching its arms out the Tayia Inlet towards Long bay. Come after the Spring tide, the highest of the tidal cycle, and frozen icebergs will be left high and dry on what normally are not tidal-influenced river banks.


12:23pm vs. 3:03pm

Or come during the ebb, as the river once again becomes a river with the tide quickly pouring back into the Inlet. Recently formed ice starts to moan and groan as the water level changes. Cracks form and chunks of ice begin to freely bob down the narrow channel of moving water.  If you happen to stumble out to Dyea on the right day, you might even see some Alaskan residents languidly enjoying a Tayia winter ice raft run or hauled out on the existing ice.


Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game list the harbor seals as a 'Species of Special Concern' due to a long-term decline in population.  With an estimated count at approximately 141,000 Alaskan harbor seals in non-glacial sites and 15,000 in glacial fjords[1], we are fortunate to have these residents here in our backyard, and accessible by road! 

If you do find the harbor seals close by, please be mindful of the following regulations and guidelines set forth by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the state of Alaska:

Federal law prohibits pursuit of marine mammals.

·         Remain at least 100 yards from marine mammals.

·         Time spent observing individual(s) should be limited to 30 minutes.

Even if approached by a marine mammal:

·         Offering food, discarding fish or fish waste, or any other food item is prohibited.

·         Do not touch or swim with the animals. They can behave unpredictably, inflict serious bite wounds, and may also transmit disease.

How to Observe Marine Mammal Behaviors and Minimize Your Impact

While viewing marine mammals, your actions should not cause a change in the behavior of the animals. Individual animal's reactions will vary; carefully observe all animals in the vicinity. Assume that your action is a disturbance and cautiously leave the vicinity if you observe behaviors such as these:

·         Increased movements away from the disturbance; hurried entry into the water by many animals, or herd movement towards the water

·         Increased vocalization, aggressive behavior by many animals towards the disturbance; several individuals raising their heads simultaneously.[2]


For more information visit:

[1] Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina): Species Profile-Description: Status, Trends and Threats."  State of Alaska. 2012. 29 Dec 2012. <>.


[2] Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina): Species Profile- Management."  State of Alaska. 2012. 29 Dec 2012. < >.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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