Lovely Lake Clark


Queen of Bristol Bay, Bella Hammond. Photo by Ben Knight

Lake Clark is a world of its own, crystal clear waters glowing green, mountains circling all around, so many fish every cast brings one in. Grayling, Lake Trout, pink stripes, winglike fins, and poka dots. And a lovely afternoon with Bella Hammond, wife of the late governor Jay Hammond. Jack—our 82 year-old guide who exclaims every time he catches a fish like an 8 year old boy hooking his first—says, “Bella, you will love. If the natives of Alaska had a queen, it would be Bella.” She is a warm, quiet woman, one who enjoys her solititude. Yet her passion for protecting this area welcomes three strangers to her dining room table for tea. She heats water on an antique wood stove, porcelain black edges shining bright. Bella speaks of her own love for Lake Clark and for the waters of Bristol Bay, of Jay and his shared passion, of her lifestyle she treasures here, the lifestyle still shared by many. It was a memorable day for us all, and I felt a sense of honor to share the time we did… but then, I see more that this is exactly what it’s about—more and more people coming together out of concern for the mining threats facing this place, coming together over this fishery and all that it supports. Bella steps forward out of a belief that the more voices heard, the more power we have to gain protection. Thank you to Lake Clark National Park for your help with historical photos. It was a privilege to spend the evening with John Branson, eating salmon soup and talking Bristol Bay history. If only Jack could come on the Koktuli with us. He was a joy we miss already.


3 thoughts on “Lovely Lake Clark

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TRAVIS!!!! Prime number b-days are lucky. Don’t forget that you get one wish for blowing out the candles and one for the cake cut. Make ’em good.
    All the best,

  2. let the politicians in washington take note on what it means to be a real citizen and statesmen (or stateswoman) and not just a pro-politico who spends time “representing” a piece of this nation they barely visit, much less know down to the very core. Bella Hammond knows. These are the opinions that matter, the ones worth representing. It’s great to hear you three are getting dirty, digging your hands deep into the silt and rock of mighty Alaska. Thanks for the perspective.

  3. I worked at a small upstart lodge about a half mile from the Hamond’s homestead. What a beautiful place. It was a wonderful place to spend the summer when I was 17 and trying to get out of my parent’s house.

    Ten years latter, there are still days that I dream about the mountains, the emerald water, the bears, the eagles, and the many fish that abounded there. Upper Lake Clark has to be one of the most beautiful places that I know of.

    At the begining of the season I floated the Chilacadrotna with my family and was blown away by the solitude, wilderness, and beauty of the place. If you get the chance, go check out twin lakes for your filiming.

    Although I have not returned much since that summer ten years ago, the place lives on in my heart. Just the idea of an open pit mine makes me sick to my stomach. There is something about it that reeks of short sightedness… I wish you the best of luck with your documentary.


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