Lupine (Lupinus nootkatensis) can be seen in full flower along the roads and in other open areas. While they may disappear shortly close to town, they boom later at higher elevations and near glaciers. Photos courtesy of USFS

By Elliott Deins

As the soak of spring comes to an end and the summer sun emerges from the clouds, vibrant wildflowers are blooming across Cordova.

From the deep purples of wild iris, radiant reds of western columbine, and luscious chocolate lilies, join the USDA Forest Service in the celebration of wildflowers. Since 1991, the Forest Service has been providing the national public with information on native plants, their conservation, and the best places to enjoy all the colors that nature has to offer.

Two wildflower worlds collide and co-exist in the Cordova area, according to the Forest Service’s Botany, Ecology, Invasive Species and Vegetation Program Manager Kate Mohatt. The ponds of the Copper River Delta and the high-altitude fen-meadows are just miles apart. 

Make sure to document your wild blooms in iNaturalist. It even helps with identification! Photos courtesy of USFS

“Cordova is at a unique nexus,” Mohatt said. “In Prince William Sound, within a dense canopy forest, there’s a few wildflower species. Where you’re going to see your biggest diversity and showiest plants will be in those open areas — the wetlands of the Copper River Delta and then the peatlands of the upland areas.”

Situated on the Copper River Delta, Alaganik Slough is Cordova’s only official wildflower viewing area, featuring a 900-foot boardwalk to view wildlife, as well as aquatic and terrestrial wildflowers. However, flowers can be found blooming on trails, in town and on the side of the highway.


The plants don’t just serve an aesthetic purpose. Wildflowers help provide clean air, purify water, and serve as the base of a diverse ecosystem. 

“Our biodiversity and wildlife habitat’s foundation is plants,” Mohatt said. “People think about the wildlife and fish, as being an exciting part of Alaska species but plants win on numbers and diversity; we’ve got five species of salmon— there are 1200 observed species of plants and fungi.”

Pond lilies are in full bloom at Alaganik right now. Photos courtesy of USFS

The wildflowers of the Chugach National Forest have never been studied phenologically. Plant phenology is the timing of plant life-cycle events, such as leaf bud burst, flowering, and fruiting.

Through the free app iNaturalist, anyone can become a citizen scientist.

“iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you,” the organization said. With just a photograph, citizens can be connected to a community of over a million scientists and naturalists and learn more about nature.

“I love iNaturalist,” said Madison Seigler, a forestry technician and app user since 2019. “It works offline, your identifications can be peer reviewed, and wildlife and plants that have been identified are time stamped on a map. If I’m looking for a certain flower, I can find where and when it was last seen.”

The app combines time in nature with the competitive joy of I spy. It’s a great way to learn about plants and help researchers collect data.

“Our goal with these iNaturalist projects,” Mohatt says, “is to capture over time a long-term dataset of plant phenology within these discrete areas.”

As the summer rolls on, look for updates from the forest service on which wildflowers are set to bloom and where.

This article was submitted by the Wildlife/Ecology/Forestry program of the Cordova Ranger District, Chugach National Forest.