Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

KMTA Spring Board Meeting Scheduled March 2

February 22, 2018

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm Corridor Communities Association, the coordinating entity for the KMTA National Heritage Area, will hold its spring board of directors annual meeting in Girdwood, March 2 at 2 p.m. at the Spoonline Cafe. The meeting will include the election of officers, review of grant proposals, and other KMTA business. The meeting is open to the public.

New Interpretive Tool at Trail Lakes Hatchery

February 9, 2018

By Katherine Schake

If you’ve driven to Seward, you’ve driven past the Trail Lakes Hatchery near Moose Pass.  But have you ever stopped to check it out? Next time, you might want to drop in and discover their newly enhanced visitor center. Thanks to a recent grant from the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area (NHA), a new video system has been installed to show short educational films on demand. Throughout the year, Trail Lakes Hatchery entertains thousands of visitors from around the globe.

“The video system has opened up an avenue for us as hatchery employees to share our passion for salmon with anyone who has a few moments,” stated Kristin Bates, Trail Lakes Hatchery Manager, “As the videos, pictures and words flow across the screen, the faces of visitors gleam with pure amazement as they discover that raising fish is an art which all of Alaska’s waters support.”

Constructed in 1982 and operated by the State of Alaska until 1988, the Trail Lakes Hatchery has been operated by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) ever since. Still owned by the State of Alaska, the hatchery is permitted to incubate 30 million sockeye, 6 million coho, and 4 million chinook salmon eggs – although, no Chinook are currently raised at the site. It is a rearing facility only, meaning no returns or releases occur directly at the hatchery. Salmon are released in Resurrection Bay, Bear Lake, Bear Creek, and other areas of the Kenai Peninsula and Susitna Watershed.

New video system installed at Trail Lakes Hatchery enhances visitor experience. Photo courtesy of Lisa Ka’aihue

Successfully installed in November, the new television monitor and sound system provide visitors with information on CIAA’s hatchery and weir operations, their activities to improve and protect salmon habitat, and how to keep the region’s salmon populations healthy. In addition, the self-guided visitor center includes interpretation displays and handouts, along with a view into raceways where sockeye and coho are raised at specific times of year for Resurrection Bay.

Trail Lakes Hatchery is the only salmon hatchery in the Seward area. Next time you drive through Moose Pass, stop by for a self-guided tour of the visitor center. If you desire a guided tour of the facilities and the Bear Creek Weir, contact the hatchery in advance: 907-283-5761

KMTA funds local projects that recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic, scenic, and natural recreational resources and cultural landscapes of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm historic transportation corridor. KMTA National Heritage Area is one of 49 designated Heritage Areas in the country. National Heritage Areas play a vital role in maintaining both the physical character and the cultural legacy of the United States. Learn more at

2017 Annual Report Reflects 42% Increase in Grants

January 30, 2018

Please take a look at our 2016-17 Annual Report. Please be patient – it is a large file. (But worth the wait!)


Collaboratively Unearthing the Past

December 8, 2017

By Katherine Schake

At a unique curve in the Kenai River, known today as a late-season silver salmon ‘hole’ by locals and named for its color, Turquoise Bend has been discovered as an 800-year-old semi-permanent winter village site of the Denai’na. To the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, this site is not only a cultural landmark and direct link to their ancestral heritage, but also represents a deep spiritual connection to a place that represents a holistic way of life that has persisted for generations.

Roughly ten thousand years ago, as the glaciers retreated from the most recent ice age, new plants sprouted on thawed ground, transforming glacial moraine into a carpet of food that encouraged animals to disperse into new territory. Nomadic Athabascans followed these animals across interior Alaska and eventually 11 distinct linguistic groups emerged. One of these, the Dena’ina, established semi-permanent settlements and fish camps throughout southcentral Alaska. The Kenai River Valley was especially abundant. Each summer four major salmon runs reliably returned, providing enough fish to last through the winter months.

What does one do, today, when a sacred place such as Turquoise Bend is located on private property?

Funded in part through a grant from the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and Chugach National Forest spearheaded a community archaeology and outreach initiative to collaborate with local landowners and archaeologists in addressing the challenges of preserving cultural heritage sites while enabling future investigation of archaeological features in the Kenai River Valley.

Ground Penetrating Radar Workshop
Photo by David Guilfoyle

As a result of the initiative, partners, including Applied Archaeology International, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, BE Surveys, and private landowners worked over this past summer to protect and manage cultural places such as Turquoise Bend. The team succeeded in mapping out an archaeological signature of a nichił, a traditional semi-subterranean log home built to house multiple families. Using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), archaeologists were able to identify the size and shape of the main home along with sub-surface hearths without disturbing the surface. This non-invasive method is supported by both Tribal representatives and private landowners.

“The landowners were great to work with. There were some cultural differences that they were very willing to hear about, learn about, and work with. I feel like we could have a good conversation that was respectful of the land,” said Joel Isaak, Cultural Coordinator of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.

The river, salmon and ancestral features are all a part of the integrated management goals of this community project. Elders, youth, landowners and archaeologists teamed-up to excavate the Dena’ina settlement site, survey cultural plants, examine the condition of the river bank, and perform site restoration activities.

Test excavations reveal cultural layers extending 800 years before present and subsurface artifacts. Photo by David Guilfoyle

The excavation also revealed a cultural deposit at 45 centimeters (approximately 18 inches) below the surface. One large nichił and two smaller nichiłs were found with identifiable house features such as cold storage where dried salmon was buried in underground pits for overwintering. Cache pits of charcoal and mounded fire-cracked rock, called middens, were radiocarbon dated to approximately 1178 AD. The midden is the designated place for emptying the hearth and may contain charred food scraps, artifacts of the house and burnt rock fragments. The frequency of middens found in the Dena’ina village complexes point to a social norm of keeping a home clean and tidy. Unfortunately, this particular midden had been impacted, unknowingly, by land use activities, and speaks to the importance of building collaborative efforts to preserve cultural heritage sites.

One of the most admirable outcomes of this past summer’s work was the synthesis of scientific research and cultural protocols within a model of community outreach.

According to David Guilfoyle at Applied Archaeology International, “Much of the work to protect cultural places is focused around on-ground environmental management, and so there is a lot of overlap with the goals of landowners and environmental groups. These projects demonstrate a need to embrace cultural heritage places, and work with Tribes to protect our shared natural and cultural landscapes.”

Overall objectives for this multi-year project include continued mapping and surveying of archaeological sites in the Kenai River Valley; the establishment of on-ground site protection along with an integrated management plan supported by Tribal representatives, landowners and archaeologists.

Funding and support for the Turquoise Bend archaeology project was provided by the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. For more information about this and other National Heritage Area projects visit

Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm CCA Board Awards New Grants

November 18, 2017

By Katherine Schake

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) Corridor Communities Association (CCA) Board of Directors held their annual fall meeting on October 18th, 2017 at the newly constructed Bison Hall at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. In addition to fostering partnerships within the Kenai transportation corridor, the association receives and administers funds, approporiated by Congress and other sources, to support locally initiated community projects. Since 2010, KMTA has granted $826,000 to local communities’ grassroots projects leveraging $1,300,000 in community investment. Past projects funded include an award-winning high school curriculum, new museum exhibits, trail restoration, interpretive signage, and construction of Bison Hall.

During the fall meeting, the Board reviewed recent applications and has awarded three grants determined to enhance and preserve the area’s historic, cultural, scenic, and outdoor recreational resources. The awards are as follows:

  • The Historic Begich Towers Inc. Preservation Project was awarded $21,343 to upgrade plumbing for the bathrooms in the 15-story building and to connect with the recently repaired large sewer mains. Built in 1956 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Begich Towers is on the Alaska Historic Registry and is located in the town of Whittier. Residents have committed to repaying a 3 million dollar loan from the US Deptartment of Agriculture for the entire building to undergo an extensive remodel. In addition to housing private residents, there are public facilites in the building including restrooms, a laundromat, the post office, police station, and city offices. Historic interpretive displays, funded by KMTA in 2016, are also located in the building and explain to visitors the significance of Begich Towers to the community of Whittier.
  • The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association was awarded $1,432.50 to enhance the Trail Lake Hatchery Visitor Center educational program. The funds will be used to install a video system that will showcase films related to hatchery operations and the importance of sustainable salmon populations in the Cook Inlet Region. The films will enable visitors to take a self-guided tour of the hatchery, expanding the current educational program.
  • The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) was granted $21,837 for a fiber optic and technology upgrade which will build a platform to deliver high speed internet to AWCC. This will fund the audio/visual and classroom needs of the newly constructed Bison Hall. High speed internet will not only create a fundamental platform for future technology needs, but will modernize the existing wildlife outreach and interpretation programs.

Additional grants may be awarded as the Board continues to review proposals. More information about KMTA grants can be found here: http://www.kmtacorridor/grants/

Alaska’s Past is Still Being Written

November 4, 2017

Kenai History featured in Trails Across Time: History of an Alaska Mountain Corridor

Ever wondered about the quartz veins in the road cuts along the Seward Highway? Did you know Johnson Pass hasn’t always been a recreational trail – prospectors blazed it in the 1890s and it soon became a wagon road thoroughfare. Want to see the coastal geography of Alaska through Captain Cook’s eyes in 1778? Or perhaps you’d like to learn how stone lamps dating back to 2000 B.C. reveal a history of multi-cultural use on the Kenai Peninsula.

An updated 2017 edition of Trails Across Time: History of an Alaska Mountain Corridor features riveting new stories and photos about Alaska’s first and only National Heritage Area. Originally published in 2005, Trails Across Time explores the historic trails, tracks, and waterways of one of Alaska’s most scenic places. From the geologic forces that shaped the landscape to Native trails, a gold rush, and the eventual building of a railroad and highways, the area reflects the broader history of Alaska. The valleys and mountains, communities and people of this unique place tell the larger story of a wild place and a rugged frontier.

Published by Ember Press, the book is a publication of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area. The KMTA National Heritage Area is one of forty-nine Heritage Areas across the nation. Established in 2009 through an act of Congress, the KMTA National Heritage Area mission is to recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic resources and cultural landscapes of the Kenai Mountains–Turnagain Arm transportation corridor.

Author, Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan is a long-time Alaskan whose books include Our Perfect Wild: Ray & Barbara Bane’s Journeys and the Fate of the Far North (University of Alaska Press, 2016); Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith (Ember Press, 2012); A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska (Alaska Northwest Books, 2009); and other books, articles, and award-winning essays. She is the executive director of the KMTA National Heritage Area.

For more information about the National Heritage Area, please visit:

Bison Hall Opens to the Public

October 20, 2017

By Katherine Schake

Photo by Michelle Richter, AWCC

On October 10th 2017, satellite internet and phone lines were installed in Bison Hall at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), putting the finishing touches on a two and a half year construction project. The educational center includes five new offices located in the upper level, a multipurpose program hall, classroom, food center, and restrooms on the main floor. With some lingering work remaining on the community kitchen, Bison Hall is now 99% complete and the doors have opened for public events.

“AWCC is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care,” shared Dianna Whitney, Director of Operations at AWCC, “The education department and its programs are central to our mission.”

At 6000 square feet, the new Bison Hall will enable AWCC to enrich their educational programs including spreading the word about the wood bison reintroduction project, the building’s namesake. Additionally, in partnership with University of Alaska Anchorage, AWCC is developing new high-quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula for school groups.

David Reka-Suma, AWCC Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator teaches first field trip in newly constructed Bison Hall. Photo by Michelle Richter

The first school group of 2017 filed into Bison Hall early October to observe AWCC’s Porcupine Presentation. Over 100 participants comfortably settled into the lecture hall to meet Snickers, one of the resident porcupines, and to learn about his life from AWCC Naturalists. This is the first of many “Portage Fieldtrips” where students also have the opportunity to walk outside, exploring the many species of animals housed throughout the 200 acre property including moose, bison, caribou, bear, muskox and more.

Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area (KMTA NHA) provided two separate grants of $24,500 each to support the construction of Bison Hall. KMTA NHA supports projects that recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic, scenic, and natural recreational resources and cultural landscapes of the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm historic transportation corridor, and promotes and facilitates the public enjoyment of these resources. KMTA’s Board met on October 18th at the new Bison Hall to consider grant applications for the coming year. For more information visit

Animal Enrichment Workshops are scheduled in Bison Hall the first Saturday of every month through April 2018. Participants will help develop toys for the animals housed at AWCC and enrollment is free with purchase of an AWCC entry ticket. “These workshops are a wonderful opportunity for you to volunteer and help our critters at the same time.” For more information, visit To book an event at Bison Hall email or call 907-783-2025.

Award-Winning Alaska Curriculum Available for Primary and Secondary Students

September 27, 2017
By Katherine Schake

“Can we do it again?” is a common response of youngsters working through “The Art of Gold Panning” lesson developed by Marc Swanson for the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area (KMTA). This newest lesson offers students an authentic experience panning for gold, testing metal conductivity, learning specific properties of metals, distinguishing between density and weight of materials, and discovering the historical drivers of gold panning in Alaska.

KMTA provides curriculum for primary and secondary students that enable youth of Southcentral Alaska to learn about their backyard through inquiry-based learning. Through field trip excursions and examining historical maps, photographs, and documents, students are immersed in the art and science of historical research – all while learning about the colorful characters who shaped the KMTA corridor into what it is today.

Marc Swanson of Seward, Alaska was granted funding by KMTA beginning in 2012 to develop this curriculum in conjunction with a Teacher Training Program. Swanson integrated historical stories of the land and people of the eastern Kenai Peninsula while creating engaging and accessible Alaska Studies lessons explicitly tied to State content standards. Over the past several years, he collaborated with numerous volunteer editors, videographers, narrators, and musicians on this project. The Governor’s Office recognized Swanson as the 2016 Alaska Studies Educator of the Year through the Awards for the Arts and Humanities program, a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, and the Office of the Governor.

Two separate curricula have been developed for primary and secondary students, with supplemental materials applicable to all ages:

• Designed for elementary and middle school students, This is Now and That was Then: Stories that Weave through the Eastern Kenai Peninsula, is an award-winning educational film series consisting of 12 short episodes. Each episode focuses on a landmark within the KMTA corridor such as Mt. Marathon, Exit Glacier, the town of Hope, and Moose Pass. Historical details of these features are discussed, and then lessons launch into broader stories of the region. The Booklet Guide and Field Trip Notes provide teachers with lesson tools to accompany the film series and highlight the history of the KMTA corridor. This film, narrated by local students, received the 2nd place National Association of Interpretation Digital Media Award.

• The high school Alaska Studies program will be greatly enriched by Trails across Time Curriculum, based on the book Trails Across Time: History of an Alaska Mountain Corridor by Kaylene Johnson. Resources for teachers include: Full Curriculum consisting of 10 Lessons; A Reader’s Guide to Trails Across Time; and Exploring the Corridor: Selected Field Trip Stops. These lessons ask students to look around them – to observe the landscape and culture that they may take for granted – and discover the story etched there.

A plethora of supplemental teaching resources are also available on the KMTA website. An index of topics includes Exploration; Geology; Indigenous People; Russian Alaska; Transportation; Individual Stories; and more. Under each topic there are lists of relevant books, news articles, maps, multimedia online resources, and KMTA curriculum chapters. The relevancy of each resource is rated and bookmarked page numbers provide teachers with quick and easy access to desired materials. For instance, under “Mining” links are provided to the Prospecting and Mining Journal where students can read about Alaska’s Hope-Sunrise Mining District while referencing the Kenai District Mining Map from 1910.

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area strives to recognize, preserve, and interpret the historic resources and cultural landscapes of the KMTA corridor. The KMTA curriculum tells the stories of the land and people, as it enables students to explore and discover the historic, cultural and natural resources within the KMTA Heritage Area. For more information and to access the full curriculum packages, visit the KMTA website:

KMTA Board Meeting Scheduled For October 18

September 7, 2017

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm CCA Board of Directors will be meeting October 18 at 1 p.m. at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage. The meeting is open to the public. The Board will be considering grant applications for the KMTA National Heritage Area program for the coming year. KMTA NHA grants are offered to communities to promote and preserve the historic,

September explorations of Gull Rock Trail outside of Hope.

cultural, scenic and recreational resources of the KMTA National Heritage Area. Projects supported by past KMTA grants include trails, historic preservation, monuments, murals, and educational programs. The grant deadline is September 22.


For more information visit


Fall 2017 Grant Cycle – Deadline to Apply Friday, September 22nd

August 10, 2017

The Kenai River-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area is pleased to announce our Fall 2017 call for grant applications. The deadline to apply is Friday, September 22, 2017 at 5:00pm AKDT. Now in its eighth year, KMTA’s grant program provides funding to local communities to develop projects that recognize, preserve, and interpret the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm’s historic, scenic, cultural, and recreational resources.

Four Valleys Community School summer students have increased scholarship access thanks to a KMTA grant.

Since its inception in 2009, the competitive grants program has provided more than $800,000 funding to local heritage development projects. Local grants have supported the development of school curriculum, recreational trail improvements, the creation of interpretive signs, and much more. KMTA is one of 49 National Heritage Areas across the nation with funding appropriated by Congress through the National Park Service.


Application instructions and grant criteria can be found on KMTA’s website at: The minimum criteria for interested applicants requires that your project is:

  • Located within the Heritage Area (this includes the communities of Seward, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, Hope, Whittier, Girdwood, Bird, and Indian
  • Sponsored by a community, non-profit or government organization
  • Consistent with the Heritage Area’s purpose to increase public awareness and appreciation for the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Heritage Area.
  • Commits a minimum match of funding for at least 50% of the project’s costs.
  • Will be completed within a 12-month period following selection by the KMTA Board of Directors.


All grant applications must be received by September 22nd, 2017 at 5:00pm to be considered for this cycle. The review process will be completed within approximately six weeks of the application deadlines. Applicants are notified of their award status in writing.


If you would like more information about KMTA’s Fall 2017 Grant Cycle, visit: or contact Jessica Szelag at