Beluga Slough, Homer

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Beluga Lake is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long, located on the southern Kenai Peninsula, in the community of Homer, Alaska. The lake is formed by a causeway that bisected and flooded an extensive tidal wetland called Beluga Slough. A small remnant of the slough remains as a tidal estuary. The name is a transliterated of the Russian “byeluga” meaning "white whale" reported in 1904 by R.W. Stone, of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Homer is a small community on Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. The town was first established on the Homer Spit in 1895. Both the town and spit were named for Homer Pennock, a gold-mining company promoter, who arrived on the spit in 1896 and built living quarters for his crew of 50 men. However, gold mining was never profitable in the area. The spit was inhospitable in winter and early settlers preferred the mainland for agriculture and raising livestock. At that time, Beluga Slough was a natural harbor used to land boats at high tide and a new settlement was established on the north shore of the slough. Coal was discovered in the area in the 1890s and the Cook Inlet Coal Fields Company further developed the town and built a railroad along the beach connecting the coal mines to a deep water dock at the end of the spit.

In 1921, James Wickersham, the territorial Judge of Alaska, envisioned Homer as a logistical center for lower Cook Inlet. He proposed to the Secretaries of the Navy and Interior that a major naval base be constructed in Kachemak Bay and that a town site be developed on the spit and adjoining mainland. In 1927, the Homer Civic League made the first attempt to build a road across Beluga Slough for easier access to the spit and an airstrip. In 1941, the Alaska Road Commission constructed a permanent causeway with a tide gate across Beluga Slough, effectively blocking the tidal exchange and creating Beluga Lake. During World War II, the Civil Aeronautics Administration constructed a long runway at the Homer airstrip using beach gravel so that fighter planes could refuel en route to the Aleutian Islands during World War II. Today the lake is used exclusively as a base for floatplanes, except during the winter when the frozen lake is used for recreation. Read more here and here. Download the latest version of the CoastView app and explore more of Beluga Slough here: