Homer, Alaska's world famous Spit

The Homer Spit

  • The first settlers couldn't possibly have envisioned the lively colorful scene that the end of the Homer Spit has become. Back then, shortly before the turn of the century, the 4.5 mile long finger was a grassy, flower-carpeted stretch with a grove of spruce, considerably higher, wider and drier than it is now. The massive 1964 earthquake reduced the Spit to 508 acres, about 350 of which are submerged at mean high tide.
  • The prevalent theory as to the origin of this formation holds that it is an unusually long sand spit, built up over the millennia from sand, silt gravel and coal deposited by the complex currents of Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay. A second theory is that glaciers retreating into the Kenai Mountains to the southwest left behind a ridge of debris – terminal moraine – which then served as a collector for the ocean's deposits. And the ever-restless elements continue to rearrange this unique spot, most notably rebuilding the beach on the end of the spit to pre earthquake dimensions.
  • Archeological digs indicate that early Native peoples probably camped out here although their villages were on the far side of Kachemak Bay.
  • A more permanent habitation grew up much later with the arrival of Americans. The turn-of-the-century settlers found the easterly end of the Spit a handy place to land boats and early-day coal shipping led to construction of a wharf and a company town there. When coal mining faded and fisheries became the focus, the wharf – and eventually the harbor – developed into an even more important key to the local economy.
  • A visitor driving down the longest road into the ocean in the world can only guess at the battles – both human and elemental – that rage around this prime piece of real estate. Sometimes it's a tug of war between the humans and the elements as violent storms try to break the Spit off from the mainland and man brings in more riprap to reinforce it. Less visible is the eternal struggle among the residents over the Spit's highest and best use. The piles of logs and wood chips, harvested from the forests 40 miles north of town and awaiting shipment to Japan or the Lower 48, spell an economic boost to some, environmental downfall to others. Even the sets of boardwalk shops have been the subject of much discussion; do they mar the view or add interest?
  • And while most folks agree that the Fishing Hole is a good addition, some think it isn't fair for the planted salmon to be tricked into swimming back to an artificial home where they can't spawn. Never mind the question of whether or not camping should be allowed around the Fishing Hole. Amidst renewed cries to get the city out of the camping business, the council voted to allow camping at the base of the Spit on the northwest side and at the Fishing Hole. A concessionaire will be around to collect.
  • And so it goes. However, the monument to fishermen lost at sea definitely has universal approval.
  • The history portion of this article is adapted from Janet Klein's A History of Kachemak Bay.

This guide brought to you by The Homer Tribune. Publisher: Jane M. Pascall. Voice (907)235-3714, Fax (907)235-3716 E-mail: info@homertribune.com, 601 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 109, Homer, AK 99603.

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