Clam Gulch —
Critical Habitat Area
Fish and Wildlife
Razor clams live along the coast in a narrow belt of sandy nearshore habitat. Razor clams are filter feeders, feeding when tides cover their beds by taking in seawater and selecting out the plankton.
The most critical period in the razor clam life cycle occurs during the fall tidal extremes when mature razor clams spawn. Clam larvae (a free swimming shell-less organism) are carried by tides and currents to settle out on Cook Inlet beaches. Clam larvae are vulnerable to all sorts of natural calamities and only a very small percentage survives to settle out and begin the adult phase. Low temperatures may freeze larvae and storms may deposit them in unsuitable habitat. Many will also be consumed by predators.
Each fall, the beaches of Clam Gulch Critical Habitat Area receive a new crop of juvenile razor clams, which will be harvested three or four years later. The condition of the beach is critical to the success of each year's clam population. A healthy, unpolluted beach is essential to ensure a continuing abundance of razor clams.
In the spring, the mouth of Deep Creek proves to be a good spot for bird viewing. Many migrants pause to rest and feed on their way to northern nesting grounds; Canada geese, snow geese, sandhill cranes, mallards, pintails, green-winged teal, goldeneyes, mergansers, buffleheads, an occasional white-fronted goose, as well as various shorebirds frequent the area. Spring also brings large numbers of sea ducks, especially eiders, oldsquaws, scoters, and some loons to lower Cook Inlet. Arctic terns can be sighted flying along the water's edge. As always, the ubiquitous glaucous-winged and mew gulls and a bald eagle or two can be seen flying along the shore, scavenging the beaches, searching for food exposed by the tides.
From May to early July, Deep Creek is the site of intense recreational saltwater salmon fishing. As the king salmon return from the sea to their stream of origin to spawn, they move northeast along the coast. Just offshore the mouth of Deep Creek, the kings are intercepted by sport fishermen in small boats. In addition to its famous clam fishery, the beaches of Clam Gulch support numerous set-net sites. During summer months, the set-netters stake their nets out into the water perpendicular to the shore to fish all five species of salmon.