Every year, the streams of the Matanuska Susitna Basin (Mat-Su) fill with hundreds of thousands of salmon returning to their natal homes to spawn. Ocean-bright Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum pour into the rivers, feeding everything from world-class rainbow trout, char and grayling to bald eagles, brown bears and humans.
The Mat-Su Basin's rivers, lakes, wetlands, tundra, boreal forest, glaciers and mountain ranges cover an area of 24,500 square miles, roughly the combined size of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Denali, the highest mountain in North America, and the Alaska Range reign supreme over the headwaters of the Susitna River. Though the headwaters of the basin include some of the wildest lands in the entire country, the lower watersheds of the basin comprise one of the most densely populated areas in Alaska.
From small cities and suburban homes to recreational subdivisions and isolated cabins, the basin possesses one of the most diverse and fragmented land ownership patterns in Alaska.
People travel from around the world to fish for Mat-Su salmon and trout and to view the wildlife, particularly brown bears, that feed on them. Alaskans depend on these fish for sportfishing, subsistence, commercial fishing and the economic benefits of tourism. The basin offers world-class fly-in and and road-accessible sportfishing. Roughly 115,000 Chinook and coho are harvested from area streams each year. More than 160,000 rainbow trout are caught annually. Each year, the Mat-Su Basin sees nearly 300,000 angler days of sportfishing effort.
"If you live in the Mat-Su, you’re a salmon person. It's just a part of who you are."
Can the proposed Susitna dam meet a standard of ‘intelligent tinkering’?
Recent research pinpoints how salmon streams boost property values -- and helps us all think twice about development.
Learn about habitat issues facing the Mat-Su.
In the Little Susitna basin, young people are helping to restore salmon passage.
The Colter Creek Fish Passage Restoration Project helps restore natural connections for return of salmon in the Little Susitna River basin.
The Conservancy coordinates the Matanuska-Susitna Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership.