National Geographic : 1898 Apr
AGRICULTURE IN ALASKA to 10 per cent of organic matter, but seldom more. If these soils are so situated as to be well drained, they should be capable of producing enor mous crops, and with an abundant and well-distributed rainfall they would be adapted to almost any kind of crop suited to the general climatic conditions of that portion of the country. In several places complaints were heard of a decided acidity of the soil, but no definite information could be secured relating to it. In one place the addition of a large amount of lime to a small plat had corrected the evil complained of. Peat formations are of considerable extent in southeastern Alaska. In the southwestern portion of the country volcanic material adds to the fertility and porosity of the soil in many places. In the Cook Inlet region the drainage is usually good, the soil overlying deep deposits of gravel. Another character istic soil formation is that which is so conspicuously illustrated by the tide flats of the Copper and Stikine rivers. These places are more or less marshy and are subject to overflow at high tides. Where protected from the encroachment of the sea and suffi ciently drained they are generally considered as very productive soils. In the southeastern portion of Alaska the Sitkan spruce (Picea sitchensis) and the hemlock (Tuga mertensiana)abound, now one and then the other predominating. They grow from tidewater to timber line, an elevation varying from 2,000 to 4,000 feet, and in some places the trees attain considerable size. Specimens of the Sitkan spruce were seen that were at least 8 feet in diameter and probably more than 200 feet high. Logs of this species were seen at the Wrangell saw-mill that approximated 100 feet in length, with an average diameter of more than 4 feet. At differ ent places in the southeastern region the so-called red and yellow cedar (Thuja gigantea and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) abound, usually at some little elevation from the sea, although trees of considerable size were seen almost at sea level. Seldom do these trees occur in such abundance as to wholly exclude other species. Another spruce (Tsuga pattoni) was observed, but not in great abundance. But a single species of pine (Pinus contorta) was seen, and that was almost invariably found on the flats or on the edge of bogs. Two species of alder (Alnus oregona and A. viridis) were common along the streams and on the mountain sides where snowslides have swept away the dense growth of moss and conifers. Willows are common, but seldom were they seen to attain the dignity of trees.