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Bristol Bay Water Trips

At our fish camp in Bristol Bay Alaska, there are no utilities what-so-ever. Everything, electricity, propane, diesel, gasoline, and most importantly water has to be carefully thought out and planned.

Since we have no potable running water, and we are out here at camp for 2 months with up to 12 people at one given time, planning for water is essential to say the least. Fortunately for us, there is a natural spring about eight and a half miles down the beach, by coffee point.

Going to fetch water for our camp is something that takes place every few days. The beach is bumpy, and there is mud and gravel and creeks all along the way. The water trip is always the same path, but over the years we have evolved our systems for containing water.

In the beginning, we had a square tote that had a lid on it. It could carry about 100 gallons of water when full. The problem with that design, is that by the time you got back to Fish Camp, half of the water would have bounced out of the tote.

Bristol bay water trip set up

Today, we use two food grade 55 gallon barrel drums with sealable covers. I created a trailer that could hold two of these drums safely, and now when we return from the spring, every drop of water that we have fetched comes back to Camp safely. 

Bristol bay spring water fountain

 The fresh spring water is a naturally occurring route where water comes out of the side of a hill. Over the years, there has been some improvements that have helped fishers like us to collect the much-needed water. We do bring a rain gutter, to collect the water from a stainless trough. The rain gutter is pointed into our water barrel and we collect the water as it runs out until our barrels are full.

The trip is notorious for rookie Fishers getting stuck in the mud. That is why we always have a second bike go along, in case something happens. Fortunately for me, knock on wood, I have never gotten stuck on any water trip, although this year, I came close. Thanks to our son, Owen, who was riding scout on his dirt bike, I could see he was getting into really soft sand. We were able to avert disaster, backtrack and get back onto the high part of the beach. Going on the water run trip is rather nice. It allows you to think about things on the long trip there and back. The trip can take as little as 90 minutes and as long as three hours, depending on tide, weather, beach conditions and how fast the water is flowing out of the spring.

Ask any Popsie Fisher about a water trip, and I guarantee you that their eyes will light up and have a story ready to tell. For us it's part of our everyday life up here in Bristol Bay, for others it's an experience of a lifetime.

Written by: Chris O'Neill