Carstensen releases book on Juneau trails

Juneau outdoors lovers now have a comprehensive guide to 10 of the city’s watersheds and their trails. The book could also be described as “a complete cultural and natural history masquerading as a trails guide,” says its author, Richard Carstensen.


“CBJ had no idea what they were getting into when they asked me to do a booklet for the signs going up around Juneau,” he joked at the Friends of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum annual meeting Wednesday.

Carstensen began working with the city through Discovery Southeast after Parks and Recreation got a grant for a trails interpretation project about seven years ago.

A trailhead in each of the 10 watersheds in the book now has an interpretive sign so thick with data that at least one person has called them “books on a stick,” Carstensen said.

Some of those watersheds and trails are Cowee-Davies, Amalga Meadows, Jensen-Olson Arboretum, Auke Lake, Montana Creek, Dzantik’i Héeni-Switzer Creek, Mount Roberts/Gold Creek, Treadwell, Fish Creek and Peterson Creek/Outer Point.

The in-depth information, he said, is catered specifically to locals.

“We hope that when you pass them on a trailhead, you stop and maybe see something you hadn’t seen before,” he said.

The project soon turned into three products — the trail signs, a four-fold laminate of condensed information, and the summary book, “A Natural History of Juneau Trails.”

The book covers information like bedrock and surficial geology, watersheds, fish, wildlife, plants, people, and individual trails and watersheds.

Carstensen also developed a ranking system for the value of different fish streams in Juneau. By the scoring system, Cowee-Davies is by far the most valuable watershed.

He emphasized, however, that “many things can’t be captured in a ranking like this.” Most streams, for example, are not “discrete systems.”

Carstensen and UAS Professor of Geology Cathy Connor also worked together to create a recently published 28-page booklet, “Reading Southeast Alaska’s Landscape.”

The goal of this booklet, Carstensen said, was to understand “why the land is shaped the way it is at all scales, from mountains to a little crack in a rock.”

It focuses not just on Juneau, but on Southeast Alaska.

“These books are going to change the way a lot of us look at our region,” said Friends Board Member Mike Blackwell.

“Familiarity may not actually breed contempt, but it sometimes causes us to take special things for granted,” Carstensen said in the introduction to the trails guide. “This book is one antidote — a salute to the jewels of our backyard watersheds.”

New and renewing members at the $75 level or higher of the Friends of the Juneau City Museum will, “for a limited time,” receive a free copy of the trails guide.

Discovery Southeast also has publications available for sale at Some shorter publications — like laminates — are available for free download at

Proceeds of books bought through Discovery Southeast will go back to the nonprofit, and will be spent on publications and education, said Board President Shawn Eisele.


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