Who We Are: JDHS grad guides visitors at local salmon hatchery

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2007

By mid-afternoon on Sunday, Cordova Lewis and the other guides at the Ladd Macaulay Visitor Center had seen only 18 bus loads of tourists - a few hundred people to entertain and inform.

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That may be enough guests to drive some hosts crazy. But it made for a slow day by the standards of guides at Douglas Island Pink & Chum, a Juneau hatchery.

With the summer season moving along, Lewis and her co-workers have educated almost 30,000 visitors. A lifelong Juneau resident and recent graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, Lewis took the job a few months ago. She'll give tours through the summer then go to college at North Arizona State University in the fall.

"I answer questions," she said. "I go to the touch tanks. I work the register and eat salmon dip."

She's one of 15 guides who handle the flow of visitors interested in learning about Southeast marine life and salmon habits. The center saw almost 110,000 people last year, Tours and Education Manager Emily Souza said. A typical day features several hundred visitors. They get seven-minute commentaries on Alaska hatcheries, then a tour of touch tanks with creatures such as sea cucumbers.

Lewis learned the material quickly.

"She's becoming one of my most knowledgeable guides," Souza said.

The 18-year-old is known for being energetic and outgoing. She also tends toward self-deprecating humor.

"One time, I was giving a tour, and I walked down the stairs and tripped," Lewis said. "I fell, and the people in the group started pointing their fingers and laughing. ... That happens to me a lot."

While growing up in the capital, Lewis took advantage of the outdoor opportunities. She enjoyed camping and snowboarding, boating and visiting the local cabins. She never considered herself much of an angler, though, despite taking a job alongside a hatchery that releases millions of fish each year.

"I'm really bad at fishing. I've only caught three fish my whole entire life. ... I just eat the salmon, I don't catch them."

When she heads off to Arizona, she'll be majoring in environmental studies. She picked the school on a whim, saying she wanted to try something new. She'll bid farewell to her parents and younger brother and the city where she was born and raised. She'll be able to look back on Southeast adventures with friends and family.

"When the sun is out, you want to be here forever," she said.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.comor 523-2263.

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