Every month Judy and I monitor the water quality on Neklason Lake, where we've lived since 1995. The water quality of the lake is remarkably good. Ancient runs of Sockeye and Coho salmon spawn in the lake. A natural run of Rainbow trout thrive on the food supply. Grebes, Bald eagles, osprey, kingfisher, Glaucous and Bonaparte gulls, hawks, sparrows, kingfishers, loons, and several kinds of ducks grace its waters and the skies above. River otters and muskrats putter around the surface at dawn and dusk.
Last Monday, at the beginning of our late August monitoring session, Judy is counting pairs of grebes.
I'm lowering the Secchi disk. It disappeared at just under five meters.
The Quanta rig. We lower it a meter at a time to the deepest part of the lake, about 17 meters. It measures pH levels, (EC) electrical conductivity, (SAL) salinity, (DO) dissolved oxygen, (ORP), redox, temperature, water depth and turbidity. Also, my book which I read as we await the Quanta unit to stop moving at each new depth. This month's read, Alex Ross' The Rest is Noise, the best book on 20th Century music I've yet enjoyed.
Looking westward, toward the lower end of the lake, where Cottonwood Creek drains into Little Neklason Lake.
The water sampler, about to be lowered to two meters, for its intake.
Strider, relaxing in the warmth of the far-too-rare sunny day.
The pH measurements we've been getting have concerned Ralph Hulbert, the water quality guy we report to. Part of the reason we like doing this volunteer work for the Mat-Su Borough is that it gives either Judy or me a chance to meet up with Ralph once a month. He's a treasure trove of knowledge about Valley history, and a vibrant conversationalist.
Scott Christiansen wrote a marvelous portrait of Ralph for the Anchorage Press back in late June. It's such a great article, I'm just going to say "Go read it!"
Ralph has had us doing extra "upstream" samples, beginning in July, to investigate where the elevated pH might be coming from. He determined then, from our sample where Cottonwood Creek comes into Neklason Lake, that it is probably coming from Cornelius Lake, the next lake up, and the highest lake in the Cottonwood Creek system.
Here's where we took one sample today, where Cottonwood Creek, above Cornelius Lake, crosses underneath Settlement Avenue, the first of many places where this creek goes underneath a Mat-Su road.
Here's the clarity of the water above the culvert. It is quite cold. It emanates from springs about a half mile or so above here, back in marshy woods.
We then drove down to Engstrom Road and parked the Outback, took the canoe off the roof, and paddled up to the middle of Cornelius Lake. Judy took a sample at the deepest part.
Then we went to where Cottonwood Creek emerges from the marshes at the upper end of the lake, and took another sample.
Here's a lone male Sockeye, wandering up and down the slough, perhaps looking for a mate.
The edge of the extensive marshy area at the east end of Cornelius Lake.
There has been a summer-long project of widening and straightening Engstrom Road. The west edge of Cornelius Lake is part of the project. The contractors and Borough seem to have taken care of the shoreline. A new, larger culvert has been put under Engstrom. I was tempted to paddle thrugh it and ride down Cottonwood to our lake, so as not to have to deal with the car-canoe thing again. Judy talked me out of it.
A bit of Lazy Mountain and Matanuska Peak, through the clouds, over Cornelius Lake. What a day!