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Chugach National Forest  

Chugach National Forest

Only a third as large as Tongass National Forest, its twin in the Southeast Alaska, Chugach is still the second-largest national forest in the country and an impressive area of forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and glaciers. Roughly the size of New Hampshire, Chugach features a geographic diversity that is truly unique among national forests. The 5,940,000-acre forest is spread across three distinct landscapes, stretching from the Kenai Peninsula east across Prince William Sound to encompass the Gulf Coast surrounding the Copper River Delta, then east from there as far as Bering Glacier.

Wildlife is plentiful especially for those who make the effort to hike away from the roads and highways. Black and brown bear inhabit most of the forest, foraging on open tundra slopes and in intertidal zones. In late summer, bears may be seen feeding on spawned-out salmon along streams and rivers. Record-size moose inhabit the Kenai Peninsula and the Copper River Delta. Dall sheep can be seen on Kenai Peninsula mountainsides, mountain goats are found on steep hillsides along Prince William Sound, the Copper River Delta and occasionally above Portage Valley. Boaters and kayakers in Prince William Sound may see Dall porpoises, harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions and Orcas and humpback whales.

More than 214 species of resident and migratory birds occupy Chugach National Forest. Seabirds, such as blacklegged kittiwakes, nest in sea cliff colonies by the thousands. Ptarmigan scurry over alpine tundra, bald eagles perch on shoreline snags and Steller's jays forage in the underbrush. The Copper River Delta protects one of the largest known concentrations of nesting trumpeter swans in North America as well as the total population of dusky Canada geese. Nesting waterfowl are joined in spring and fall by thousands of migrating shorebirds.

Chugach also offers a variety of fishing opportunities; anglers can cast for rainbow, lake and cutthroat trout as well as Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling and all five species of Pacific salmon. Many of the fisheries are easy to reach; roadside lakes and rivers abound throughout offering boat less anglers a chance to fish for a trophy. Chugach's most noted fishery is the red salmon run of the Russian River where anglers are often standing elbow-to-elbow along the river bank in July and August in hope of catching dinner.

Chugach is one of the few places left in the world where glaciers spill out of the mountains and into the seas. When combined with the Bagley Icefield from which it originates, Bering Glacier is larger than Switzerland. Columbia Glacier is one of the largest tidewater glaciers in the world while Portage Glacier and its Begich-Boggs Visitor Center is one of the most popular stop for tourists in Alaska.

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