Alaska Region Viewing Area

LOCATION and PHOTOS

Old growth Sitka spruce.
Old growth Sitka spruce, shield ferns in the foreground. Photo by Karen Dillman.

Deer berry.
Note the berries forming in the tiny white flowers of this deer berry. Photo by Karen Dillman.

Skunk cabbage flower.
Notice the tiny closely-packed flowers blooming on the flower stalk of the skunk cabbage flower. Anthers are visible on flowers in the middle of the stalk. A modified leaf forms a yellow hood around the flower stalk. Photo by Karen Dillman.

Lettuce lichen.
Lettuce lichen that had fallen from the forest canopy. Photo by Karen Dillman.

Ohmer Creek

Forest: Tongass National Forest

District: Petersburg Ranger District

Description: Ohmer Creek Trail is an easily accessible wildflower viewing area on Mitkof Island in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. The barrier-free part of the trail begins at a small parking area off the Mitkof Highway. It follows along Ohmer Creek, crossing Woodpecker Cove Road (#6280) near its junction with the highway, and ends at the boardwalk of the next section. This segment of the trail is wide with a mostly flat, gravel surface, and ends at a barrier-free fishing platform and bench. Along this segment of the trail, the visitor will experience one of the few large riparian forests on Mitkof Island with old- growth spruce (Picea sitchensis) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) trees. There are also blow down trees with large moss-covered standing root wads along the trail that characterize the pit and mound topography of the temperate rainforest in Alaska.

The second segment of the trail begins as a boardwalk from the end of the gravel and leads through spruce and hemlock forest to a floating bridge over a beaver pond. From the muskeg, the trail continues back into the forest and ends at the bridge on the Snake Ridge Road (#6246). About half of the trail is boardwalk and other sections are muddy and uneven. Two spur trails lead from the main trail to fishing areas on Ohmer Creek. These areas are also good places to see wildflowers along the creek.

From the trailhead at the Snake Ridge Road, turn left and follow the road to its junction with the Woodpecker Cove Road. Turn left again onto the Woodpecker Cove Road and follow it back to the Mitkof Highway.

Wildflower Viewing: Numerous plants are blooming from June to August along the boardwalk trail in the forest, along the creek and in the muskeg. The forest-dwelling species along the trail include devils club (Oplopanax horridus), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), dwarf dogwood (Cornus canadensis), deer berry (Maianthemum dilatatum) and skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum). A variety of lush ferns, such as lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and shield fern (Dryopteris expansa) cover the streamside and the forest floor. The non-flowering plants are cryptic in this sea of green. Visitors will notice the large clumps of moss, lichen and fern on the ground, which have fallen from the forest canopy onto the trail and the forest floor. The nitrogen-fixing lettuce lichen (Lobaria oregana) dominates the litter along with lanky and cat-tail mosses (Rhytidiadelphis loreus and Isothecium myosuroides) and licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza). The forest floor is also carpeted with stair-step moss (Hylocomium splendens). If lucky, a visitor will smell the sweet fragrance of shy-maiden (Moneses uniflora) from several feet away, growing on fallen trees in the forest. This tiny wintergreen plant has one small but fragrant white flower with a stem that bends forward, as to keep the rain off the flowers inside. At the beaver pond, visitors will see various sedges and rushes lining the channel as well as showy aquatic flowering plants such as buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and yellow water lily (Nuphar polysepala). From the pond, the trail continues through muskeg where cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus) and low-bush cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccus) are nestled in the brightly colored sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.).

Safety First: Ohmer Creek offers fair to good trout and salmon (pink and coho) fishing in late summer and fall. King Salmon return to the creek in June and July. Therefore, this site is located in an area that receives moderate visitor use as well as bear use. When in bear country, make lots of noise to make your presence known, especially if you are by yourself or in a small group. Bear spray and insect repellent are recommended items to carry. Be prepared for inclement weather by wearing non-cotton clothing and have rain gear handy.

Directions: Drive south from Petersburg on the Mitkof Highway to 22 mile. The highway is paved the entire way. There is a parking area on the Mitkof Highway that provides a few parking slots, as well as small parking area at the intersection of Woodpecker Cove road and the Mitkof Highway. The trail is located north of Ohmer Creek Campground (easily seen from the trail across the creek), the trail follows Ohmer Creek through mature temperate rainforest, muskeg, and over a beaver pond. The first section is barrier-free and has interpretive signs. The second section of the trail provides anglers with access to Ohmer Creek and adjacent beaver ponds.

Ownership and management: USDA Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Petersburg Ranger District (907) 772-3871.

Closest Town: Petersburg, Alaska.