Colville Delta

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Colville Delta is a river delta in northern Alaska that flows into Harrison Bay. The delta is so flat that it has been said that it is indiscernible where the river ends and the ocean begins. The powerful outflow of the Colville River creates a shallow region that is rich with nutrients, making it ecologically significant for wildlife.

Map of the Harrison Bay and Colville River Delta region in the Beaufort Sea


The Colville River, approximately 350 miles (560 km) long, flows from the De Long Mountains until it reaches the Alaska Native community of Nuiqsut, where it forms a broad delta.


The waters of the Colville delta, along with the waters of Harrison Bay, make an ideal refuge for long-tailed ducks, king eiders, red-throated loons, Arctic terns, surf scoters, brant geese, and glaucous gulls.[1] In summer and fall, migrating red-throated and yellow-billed loons and king and spectacled eiders stop in to rest and feed.[2] Nearshore forage fish are important in Arctic food webs, linking energy from smaller prey items to larger predators like birds and marine mammals.[3] Harrison Bay is important habitat for forage fish, such as Arctic cod and capelin.[4]

In addition to the many birds, wintering polar bears hunt and feed on ice seals in the shore-fast ice, along open leads, or at openings in pack ice.[5] Pregnant polar bears frequently build winter dens in and around the area[5][6][7]

The Colville River used to host a small commercial fishery for Arctic ciscoes, and though the fishery is closed,[4] the river delta is still potential habitat for Salmonidae fishes like broad whitefish[8] and nearshore forage fishes like Arctic cod and capelin.


  1. ^ Smith, M., N. J. Walker, I. J. Stenhouse, C. M. Free, M. Kirchhoff, O. Romanenko, S. Senner, N. Warnock, and V. Mendenhall, ["A new map of Important Bird Areas in Alaska"], 16th Alaska Bird Conference, Juneau, AK, 2014. Retrieved 15-09-2016.
  2. ^ Smith, M., N. Walker, C. Free, M. Kirchhoff, N. Warnock, A. Weinstein, T. Distler, and I. Stenhouse, "Marine Important Bird Areas in Alaska: Identifying Globally Significant Sites Using Colony and At-sea Survey Data", Audubon Alaska: Anchorage, September 2012. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  3. ^ Craig, P., W. Griffiths, L. Haldorson, and H. McElderry, "Ecological studies of Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) in Beaufort Sea coastal waters, Alaska", Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 39, 1982. Retrieved 15-09-2016.
  4. ^ a b Thornsteinson, L. and M. Love, "Alaska Arctic marine fish ecology catalog: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5038", Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Outer Continental Shelf Study, 2016. Retrieved 15-09-2016.
  5. ^ a b Kalxdorff S., ["Collection of local knowledge regarding polar bear habitat use in Alaska"], USFWS Marine Mammal Management, 1997. Retrieved 15-09-2016.
  6. ^ US Fish and Wildlife Service, "Habitat conservation strategy for polar bears in Alaska", 1993. Retrieved 15-09-2016.
  7. ^ US Fish and Wildlife Service, "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Polar Bear in the United States", Federal Register, 05-05-2010. Retrieved 15-09-2016.
  8. ^ Patton J., Galloway B., Fechhelm R., and Cronin M., "Genetic variation of microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA markers in broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus) in the Colville and Sagavanirktok rivers in northern Alaska", Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 1997. Retrieved 15-09-2016.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 70°24′N 150°48′W / 70.4°N 150.8°W / 70.4; -150.8