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Know the West

See the bay ‘where water is gold’

Photos by Carl Johnson illustrate the cost of building the Pebble Mine in Alaska.


Where Water is Gold celebrates the natural bounty of Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Images and essays highlight the splendor of the area’s mountains, waterways and wildlife, and the lives of the people who live and work there. The bay hosts the biggest sockeye salmon run in the world, and fish figure prominently in photographer Carl Johnson’s images. In one, a rainbow trout camouflages itself against a streambed; in another, sunlight turns ruby strips of drying sockeye translucent.

The book offers a vivid reminder of what is at stake should developers build Pebble Mine, a massive copper and gold mine proposed for Bristol Bay’s headwaters. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writes in the book’s foreword that pristine habitats hold an “immeasurable” value of their own: “Turn these pages,” she writes, “and you, too, will understand why in Bristol Bay, it is water that is the true gold.”

Carl Johnson

If you want to learn how to shoot like Carl Johnson, you can join him at the Sundance Mountain Resort this fall, where he and fellow Braided River authors will be leading a conservation photography workshop. For more info about the workshop, visit www.braidedriver.org.

Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol BayBy Carl Johnson. 176 pages, softcover: $24.95. Braided River/Mountaineers Books, 2016.