Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest

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The photos alone will keep adventurers of all stripes returning, and the essays deserve second and third reads, to take in all the Tongass has to offer.Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Salmon in the Trees tells the remarkable story of the Tongass rain forest. Fringing the coastal panhandle of Alaska and covering thousands of islands in the Alexander Archipelago, the Tongass is one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth. Humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions cruise the forested shorelines. Millions of wild salmon swim upstream into the forest, feeding an abundance of bears and bald eagles. Native cultures and local communities benefit from the gifts of both the forest and sea.

But the global demands of our modern world may threaten this great forest’s biological riches. With camera and rain gear in hand, photographer Amy Gulick paddled and trekked among the bears, misty islands, and salmon streams to document the intricate connections within the Tongass. Along the way, she met bush pilots, fishermen, guides, and artists. Together with leading scientists and conservationists, as well as Alaskan artist Ray Troll, the project tells a hopeful story of the Tongass National Forest, an American treasure worth preserving.

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Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest is a large-format photography book, published by Braided River in 2010. Through her photographs and accompanying essays, Gulick explains the intricate connections between the trees, salmon, wildlife, and people of Southeast Alaska.

Profiles of ten Southeast Alaskan residents from varied backgrounds emphasize the importance of an intact ecosystem to human life in the Tongass. Supplementing Gulick’s essays and images are essays by Carl Safina, Rosita Worl, Richard Carstensen, Douglas Chadwick, Brad Matsen, John Schoen; illustrations by Ray Troll; and a sound recording Richard Nelson.

Salmon in the Trees is published in partnership with Alaska Wilderness League.


An exhibit of 15 of Gulick's photos debuted at the Burke Museum of Natural History in Seattle in 2010. In addition to the photos and their detailed captions, the exhibit included three maps and an introduction panel explaining the goals of the project.

Permanent Exhibit at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau, Alaska
Tongass National Forest's Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center hosts the permanent exhibit, A Salmon Forest. Based on Salmon in the Trees, the exhibit is the result of a two-year collaboration between Gulick and the U.S. Forest Service. The center receives more than 450,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most visited attractions in all of Alaska.

Permanent Exhibit in Wrangell, Alaska
In the Southeast Alaska community of Wrangell, the James & Elsie Nolan Center hosts a permanent Salmon in the Trees exhibit. This exhibit includes two educational panels created in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service. The small community of Wrangell is quickly becoming an important stop for the many tour boats that travel throughout Southeast Alaska during the busy summer tourist season.

International Year of Forests Exhibit Tour
In recognition of the 2011 International Year of Forests, the Salmon in the Trees photography exhibit traveled to six communities throughout Southeast Alaska. The tour was made possible through a collaboration of the U.S. Forest Service, National Forest Foundation, Alaska Wilderness League, and Braided River. More than 18,500 people saw the exhibit over the course of six months. In each of the communities, Amy Gulick gave a multimedia presentation about the Tongass and life in Southeast Alaska.