salmon camp

Kodiak Island is a microcosm of Alaska ecosystems: tangled rain forests, open grasslands, glacier-cut bays, and a multitude of streams—spawning grounds for every species of Alaska salmon. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, accessible only by boat or plane, reaches out to Alaskans through its Visitor Center in the city of Kodiak.

The refuge Visitor Center offers a popular “Science and Salmon Camp” for kids on Kodiak Island. Most of the camp sessions take place within the city, but a few sessions are offered in remote villages (this year the camp traveled to Karluk, Larsen Bay, Akhiok and Port Lions).

The program emphasizes hands-on learning, combining outdoor exploration, music, and art to teach youth about the diversity and interconnectedness of Kodiak’s marine and terrestrial habitats, and about the human influences that affect our natural ecosystems.

salmon camp

This year, Salmon Camp’s theme was water. Camp instructors and high school volunteers (many of whom are former “Salmon Campers” themselves) led the students in games and activities to help them better understand the water cycle and salmon life cycles, seabird adaptations, food chains, marine debris, climate change, the impacts of oil spills, and so much more! Plus, these Kodiak kids explored their natural landscape by going fishing, birding, tide-pooling, hiking, and exploring.

salmon camp

Salmon Camp also hosts a session specifically for older youth 7th & 8th graders called Adventure Camp. Adventure Camp takes outdoor learning to the next level, focusing on wilderness skills like Leave No Trace principles, orienteering, knot tying, and more! This year, Adventure Campers went on a three-day camping trip to Long Island to put their new knowledge to the test as well as enjoy hiking, fishing, campfires, and making new friends.

salmon adventure camp

Adventure Campers often go on to be the high school volunteers who help make this camp happen every summer. These volunteers serve as mentors to the younger campers. It is often their first volunteering experience, and all looked forward to helping a new cohort of youth play and learn in the outdoors. These phenomenal youth take their responsibility as role models very seriously, and are eager to demonstrate that fun and responsibility can go hand and hand. A one teen put it, “I am not just friends with these youth – I am a role model. It is really cool to teach someone something they can use for the rest of their lives. ” To meet these enthusiastic youth, check out their video at:

As you can see, the Salmon Camp program doesn’t just provide invaluable lessons about Kodiak’s ecosystems, it provides Kodiak youth with opportunities to develop their leadership skills and be engaged in hands-on service to their community. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see these high school volunteers go on to participate in Kodiak’s Youth Conservation Corps program – or even become the future employees of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

salmon camp

Alaska Geographic is a proud supporter of Kodiak Science and Salmon Camp, along with Friends of Alaska Wildlife Refuges and PWSRCAC. The camp is also supported by generous donations from the Kodiak Community.


 (All photos belong to Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge)