Discover this lesser-known jewel for outdoor adventures on the Kenai Peninsula
Virtually undiscovered by most visitors to the Kenai Peninsula, Captain Cook State Recreation Area offers a peaceful setting of forests, lakes, streams and saltwater beaches.
The recreation area is named for Captain James Cook, the English mariner who in 1778 explored what is now known as Cook Inlet. At that time, Dena’ina Indians, who harvested seasonal runs of salmon and other wild food, occupied the area. Remains of Dena’ina barabaras, traditional sod-roofed homes built into the ground, are evidence of their earlier presence. In recent years, this area has been used for commercial fishing with beach set nets.
Expect to see a wandering moose or bear, coyotes, wolves, beavers and muskrats. Beluga whales and harbor seals swim in the waters of the inlet. In the salt-free waters of Swanson River and Stormy Lake, anglers will find rainbow trout, silver salmon and arctic char. Bird species include bald eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, Pacific and common loons, golden-eye ducks, mergansers, thrushes, warblers and jays.
Stormy Lake is popular among boaters and kayakers but there are many other activities for visitors such as beachcombing the inlet's tide-swept shores, bird watching, berry picking, riding ATVs (in designated areas only), bow hunting, fishing, hiking nature trails, swimming and searching for agate along the beaches. Visitors are warned to be cautious while exploring the mud flats and become familiar with the tide schedule, as tides coming can be too quick to safely escape. In winter, ice fishing, driving snowmobiles and cross-country skiing are popular activities as well.