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Nature Boardwalk

Location #8

Location #8



After crossing Eighth Street, the trail continues through another small muskeg area, though you might notice that things are a little different here. In all but the driest periods, the water is beginning to move in the small creek, allowing the Shore Pine we met earlier to grow taller and for new types of trees and bushes to arrive. As you continue onto the wooden boardwalk, you enter a small riverbed riparian area. Representatives of most of the dominant tree species in the Southeast Alaska grow along this short path. Look closly at the needles on each to determine which species is which. As we noted earlier, the Shore Pine has longer needles that grow in pairs. Sitka Spruce have medium-length, sharp (and painful!) needles that stick out like porcupine quills. On larger spruce, the bark comes off in rounded potato-chip looking “scales.” Our two species of hemlock, western and mountain, have very short, flat and blunt needles. Mountain hemlocks’ needles are all the same length and grow all the around the twig. Western hemlock are less organized, with needles of varying length sticking out from the sides of the twig. Mitkof Island marks the northernmost edge of the range of Western red cedar, but you’ll need to head further south on the island to see one. Yellow cedar are common on this path, though. You can recognize a cedar of either species by its trunk, which looks very shaggy as its bark comes off in long strips, and the branches of both bear soft, flattened, draping sprays. The understory in a mature Southeast Alaskan rainforest area like this is lush with growth. In spring, you might smell the skunk cabbage here before you see it. Its enormous leaves grow in very wet muck and lend the whole area a prehistoric feeling. In spring, its large, bright yellow flower emits the smell that gives it its name. The much smaller dwarf dogwood, or bunchberry, graces the area immediately next to the boardwalk. It has white four-petaled flowers in spring, and bright matte-red berries later in the year. Two other important berry-producing shrubs also grow along this stretch. Red-stemmed blueberry bushes bear bell-shaped flowers in spring and dark blue berries later in summer. These berries are smaller and tarter, but no less delicious, than domestic blueberries. Toward the very end of the trail, beware the thorny stems of the salmonberries, which hold bright fuchsia flowers in spring and fruits that look like golden orange or deep red blackberries in early summer. These berries are favorites of robins, cedar waxwings, and smart humans.



Behind my closed eyes
I see nothing but berries.
Time to stop picking.

Directions to next location

The Nature Boardwalk ends near Petersburg’s elementary school at the top of Dolphin Street. Listen as you follow Dolphin all the way back down to North Nordic Drive and the waterfront, or wander around the residential areas of town a bit.

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