the good river campus
Viewed from the top of a nearby mountain, the town of Gustavus disappears into the coastal temperate rainforest. No roads lead to it. No resorts or shopping malls give evidence of its small human population.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Gustavus did not exist. Instead, a massive ice field spilled out of what is now neighboring Glacier Bay, its tongue protruding south into Icy Strait. Silt deposited by glacial outwash formed new land: the plain where Gustavus now sits. The glacier’s dramatic retreat left a scoured landscape that has rapidly been recolonized by bears and moose, whales and sea otters, eagles and cranes. A living laboratory of ecological succession and rapid climate change, 3.3 million acres of this region is now protected as Glacier Bay National Park. Gustavus itself is an inholding within the park, and contiguous preserves in Alaska and Canada mean that town dwells within the largest swath of protected land on earth.
From top: lupines bloom along the Good River; our location within southeast Alaska; Gustavus and the Beartrack Mountains; the former Good River B&B – our new home!
Our new campus directly abuts that protected land. A sunlit 18-acre parcel on the outskirts of town, each summer the Good River campus is adorned with lupine and wild rose, visited by moose and bear. To the east courses the eponymous Good River. Hop in your kayak and float the half mile down to Icy Strait – the northernmost stretch of the Inside Passage, where humpback whales breach and eagles soar for their supper. Or, take a stroll a few hundred yards west, leading you to the region’s sole waystation for vast flocks of migrating sandhill cranes. Keep going and you’ll soon reach Glacier Bay National Park, a labyrinth of steep fjords and calving tidewater glaciers. Or head north, and wend your way into the wild reaches of the Beartrack Mountains.
So embedded in the landscape, our students will live interdependently both with the natural world and the town of Gustavus. Despite its small size and remote location, the town is a thriving and vibrant community. Park scientists and commercial fisherman, noted nature writers and professional musicians all call Gustavus home. Living as they do in the “last frontier,” Gustavus residents are skilled hunters, fisherman, carpenters, and gardeners. Though no town is without its conflict, close ties within the community create a natural “social security;” people rally together to support the young and the elderly, the injured and the ill. Students will have the chance to immerse themselves in this community, apprenticing themselves to its lifeways.
It is along the banks of the Good River – ensconced in Alaskan wilderness and the warmth of a rural community – that the Arete Project will write its next chapter. Drawing on the beauty of its setting, the abundance of its resources, and the expertise of its people, the Arete Project will share with the world the educational promise of this unique place.