Taku - A River Divided The Taku River watershed is the largest unprotected wilderness area on the west coast of North America that has all five species of pacific salmon with no major development along its banks (e.g. roads, towns, infrastructure, etc...). Its pristine environment is also home to sixteen other species of fish, moose, black and grizzly bears, caribou, mountain goats and sheep, wolves, ermine and martin, eagles, and waterfowl. The upper-headwaters flow 100 miles from the interior of British Columbia, Canada culminating in tidewater at the mouth of Taku Inlet roughly 15 miles from Juneau, Alaska. The Taku has supported the area’s Tlingit groups for thousands of years and continues to provide cultural, recreational, and commercial uses for current users of all the resources it has to offer. My experience on the Taku began at the age of eighteen as a crewmember aboard a gillnetter, commercial fishing for salmon in Taku Inlet. Days and nights standing on the back deck working gave me ample opportunity to appreciate the majesty of the glacially formed landscape. John Muir first explored the area in 1880, and spoke of the archetypal characteristics of the Taku in his Travels in Alaska, “This fjord, more than any other I have examined, explains the formation of the wonderful system of channels extending along the coast from Puget Sound to about latitude 59 degrees, for it is a marked portion of the system, --a branch of Stephens Passage. Its trends and general sculpture are as distinctly glacial as those of the narrowest fjord, while the largest tributaries of the great glacier that occupied it are still in existence.” The characteristics of the glacially formed landscape are in large part what provide for the region’s largest producing salmon watershed. The river provides salmon for sport and commercial fishermen throughout Southeast, Alaska: trollers on the outercoast, gillnetters in the inlet, and every fishing pole and net in-between. However, many people are unaware of the small commercial fishery just across the Canadian border. In May of 2012, I spent 10 days photographing the small contingent of Canadian fishermen, consisting of roughly sixteen permit holders, plying the waters just upriver of the cabins on the U.S. side of the border. Their summers are spent dodging snags and submarined hazards drift gillnetting on small skiffs, hand hauling nets full of salmon. The fish are occasionally flown out to Atlin in small quantities, brought down river to the Taku Lodge, or skiffed all the way into Juneau where they are processed and packaged for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation owned brand, Taku Wild. In spite of the successful commercial fisheries on either side of the border, a cancer has existed on a tributary of the Taku for nearly 60-years. Large-scale mining took place in the Taku River valley starting in the 1920s and 30s and culminated in 1957 in part due to low metal prices. Despite modest efforts to resurrect the Tulsequah Chief Mine, first by Red Fern and now Chieftain Metals, few permanent or long-term solutions have been made to mitigate the acid mine drainage leaching into the Tulsequah and Taku Rivers. The future of the Taku is just as divided as the border by desires to further develop the area for mining and tempered by efforts to preserve the area and its environment for commercial fishing, recreation, tourism, and cultural purposes.