prince of wales muskegs rich with life

Muskeg along Setter Creek
Verdantly green, this grassy Muskeg is along Setter Creek.

The wetlands of Prince of Wales, indeed Alaska, are called muskegs. Wikipedia has the following introduction on their article about muskegs

Muskeg (CreemaskekFrenchfondrière de mousse, lit. moss bog) is an acidic soil type common in Arctic and boreal areas, although it is found in other northern climates as well. Muskeg is approximately synonymous with bogland, but “muskeg” is the standard term in Western Canada and Alaska, while ‘bog’ is common elsewhere. The term became common in these areas because it is of Cree origin; maskek (ᒪᐢᑫᐠ) meaning low-lying marsh.[1] Large tracts of this soil existing in Siberia may be called muskeg or bogland interchangeably.

Muskeg consists of dead plants in various states of decomposition (as peat), ranging from fairly intact sphagnum moss, to sedge peat, to highly decomposed humus. Pieces of wood can make up five to 15 percent of the peat soil. Muskeg tends to have a water table near the surface. The sphagnum moss forming it can hold 15 to 30 times its own weight in water, allowing the spongy wet muskeg to form on sloping ground. Muskeg patches are ideal habitats for beaverspitcher plants, agaric mushrooms and a variety of other organisms. (

A layman’s description, Geologically-speaking,  Prince of Wales Island is pretty much a mega rock covered primarily with peat and moss from dead and decaying trees and vegetation  When we first moved here, I was told by an old-timer that” when people moved, they took their dirt with them.”   And there is a reason for that; . There is dirt,  but not much to write home about.

SAR with Sophie in background
Rd 3011 muskeg. SAR with GSD Sophie running in background. This muskeg is located on top of a large hill next to a quarry.

The muskeg can be in the lowlands or on a shelf up a hill or mountain. It is  dense and spongy to walk on. Muskegs form alongside lakes, streams,  and rivers.  There may be a small grove of trees bisecting or forming island clumps in muskegs.These trees are normally stunted due to the high moisture content. The only trees found  alongside muskeg ponds are  nature’s bonzai- stunted cedars or hemlock as stunted and graceful in appearance as the Japanese bonsai.

Muskegs are lush with plantlife. They are dotted with little ponds, some very shallow, others very deep. My pups enjoy playing and romping in the muskegs, leaping over the ponds; a rare misjudgement has landed them into a deep pond, where they are extended from their hindlegs to their forelegs (110lb shepherds), unable to scramble out as the sides are steep, bottoms are mushy and with no opposing digits, it is tough getting a good grip.  In those situations,  it is best to help them scramble out by gripping their scruff and hauling them out.  Heck, I have walked in a foot wide fast downhill moving stream to prevent laying a scent trail on land for SAR training and stepping off a four inch high waterfall found myself up to my elbows in a deep well.

W have never seen fingerlings or fish in the muskeg ponds, however they are attractive

Scrub  cedar alongside muskeg pond
Scrub cedar alongside muskeg pond. The picture does not do it justice.

to bugs and water plants.  During the summers, the ponds are dotted with floating green with white or  yellow lilies. During the spring, the muskegs are dotted with orchids and lilies.

However, the predominant plantlife in  the verdant muskegs are grasses however that changes as muskegs mature and become populated with a variety of other low-growing plants, shrubs, and eventually scrub trees.

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