Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Only 100 miles southwest from Anchorage, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve holds some of Alaska's finest scenery: an awesome array of mountains, glaciers, granite spires, thundering waterfalls, waved-washed coastline, and the largest lake in the state.
THINGS TO DO
Visitors to the park are usually a mix of anglers, river runners, wildlife enthusiasts, and experienced backpackers. Within the park are three designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers — Chilikadrotna, Tlikakila, and Mulchatna Rivers — that have long been havens for rafters and paddlers in inflatable canoes and kayaks. Lake Clark's watershed is one of the world's most important producers of Bristol Bay red salmon, contributing a third of the annual harvest, making the park a popular spot for sportfishing. The rivers and lakes feature outstanding fishing for salmon, Dolly Varden, rainbow and lake trout, Arctic char, northern pike, and Arctic grayling.
Many activities such as backcountry hiking, camping, birding, kayaking, and rafting require careful planning and time commitment in this vast wilderness. Because of the park's proximity to Alaska's largest city, many visitors interested in fishing, flightseeing, or bear viewing can visit the park for just for a day on a float plane.
Bear viewing is a highlight of Lake Clark National Park, with dense populations of brown bears gathering along the coastline, lakes, and creeks to feed on salmon and clams. Guided day tours from Anchorage, Kenai, and Homer take visitors into the park by small plane to spend time watching these magnificent animals. The best times for bear viewing are June through September.
There are no roads and few trails in Lake Clark, but the park is home to the 50-mile historic Telaquana Route, the park's best cross-country route. First used by Dena'ina Athabascans and later by fur trappers and miners, the route begins on Lake Clark's north shore, near the Athabascan village of Kijik, and ends near Telaquana Lake. In between, you pass through boreal forests, ford glacial rivers, and cross the fragile alpine tundra along the western flank of the Alaska Range. In addition to the Telaquana Route, there are several other backcountry hiking routes and day hikes that explore the park's remote lakes, rivers, mountains.
For those looking for a more comfortable multi-day wilderness experience, there are several remote lodges located in and around Lake Clark National Park catering to anglers, wildlife enthusiasts, and those looking for a quiet retreat into the wilderness. These all-inclusive lodges provide comfortable accommodations, meals, transportation, and excursions like fishing, bear viewing, boating, and photography.
Lake Clark is home to a wide variety of subarctic wildlife species. Land mammals include brown and black bears, moose, the Mulchatna caribou herd that numbers more than 100,000, Dall sheep, and wolves. Harbor seals, beluga whales, Steller sea lions, and sea otters are seen along the coast.
The 5,625-square-mile park stretches from the shores of Cook Inlet, across the Chigmit Mountains, to tundra-covered hills in Southwest Alaska. The centerpiece of the park is spectacular Lake Clark, a 42-mile-long turquoise body of water ringed in by mountains. The Chigmit Mountain Range, where the Alaska Range merges into the Aleutian Range, is home to Mount Iliamna at 10,016 feet and Mount Redoubt at 10,197 feet — two active volcanoes that erupted in 1990, sending ash all the way to Anchorage.
On either side of the mountains, the valley, lake, and foothill areas reflect a glacially altered terrain. Boreal forest covers the lower sections of the southwest part of the park, with white and black spruce making up most of the coniferous trees. The father north and west regions are primarily tundra.
Qizhjeh Vena, meaning ‘a place where people gathered’ in Dena’ina Athabascan, is the original name of Lake Clark. The Athabascan people known as Dena’ina have lived in the Lake Clark region for thousands of years. The land and water supports, shapes, and sustains their culture. The park contains numerous sites with ancient and historic remains, many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places — including the famous cabin built by Richard Proenneke in the late 1960s.
FACILITIES, CAMPING, AND LODGING
Port Alsworth on Lake Clark's southeastern shore serves as the main entry point into the park, accessible only by plane. Within the small village is lodging, meals, raft rentals, a privately-owned campground, and the Port Alsworth Ranger Station, with displays and videos on the park and a limited selection of maps and books for sale.
Lake Clark also has several remote lodges, most of which are accessible from Port Alsworth, for those looking for a comfortable multi-day escape into the wilderness. There is one primitive camping area at Hope Creek and two public use cabins on Lake Clark.
Access to Lake Clark is by small charter aircraft on a one-hour flight from Anchorage, Kenai, or Homer. Small planes that take visitors on day trips into the park land on lakes, gravel bars, or beaches to spend the day fishing or bear viewing. Most remote lodges are accessed by air taxi from Port Alsworth, which rests on the south shore of Lake Clark.
For more information, visit the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve website.
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