Located on Alaska’s largest island and home to the famous Kodiak brown bear
At 3,670 square miles, Kodiak is Alaska's largest island and the country's second largest (after the Big Island of Hawaii). Scattered in and around Kodiak Island are six state parks and state recreation sites, offering a wide range of opportunities including viewing World War II artifacts, renting a public-use cabin, whale watching and catching trophy salmon.
The largest unit at 75,049 acres is Afognak Island State Park, 25 air miles north of the city of Kodiak, followed by 47,000-acre Shuyak Island State Park 54 air miles to the north. Near the city itself is 186-acre Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, 168-acre Buskin River State Recreation Site and Woody Island State Recreation Site, a 112-acre unit at the north end of Woody Island just two miles east of downtown Kodiak. Forty-five miles southwest of the city but on the Kodiak road system is Pasagshak River State Recreation Site, a 20-acre park.
Kodiak's most popular state park is Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, a military fort, complete with a pair of eight-inch guns. The fort was built in 1941 by the U.S. Army to protect Naval Air Station Kodiak and the Fort Greely Garrison from a Japanese invasion that never came.
The variety of vegetation on Kodiak Island provides a spectacular array of color, patterns and textures. The mild maritime temperatures and ample rainfall contribute to the abundance of green vegetation that is responsible for Kodiak’s other name, "The Emerald Isle". Coastal wildflower fields, lowland grasslands, shrub-lands of willows, dwarf birch and alder, rich wetlands and wet tundra span across the parks. Alpine tundra covers the ridges and grows above tree line, which varies from about 500 to 1,000 feet.
The Sitka spruce forest that adorns the lower elevations, is relatively young, and only covers the northeast end of Kodiak Island, especially in the vicinity of Monashka Bay and Cape Chiniak. It is not mixed with any other species of trees, which makes it unique in the world. The low protected valleys of central, eastern, and western Kodiak Island contain balsam poplar (cottonwood) and Kenai birch. An abundance of Sitka alder and a variety of willow species grow on the slopes and riparian habitats. The southern two thirds of the island are virtually treeless and support a thick cover of grass and wet tundra.
Kodiak is home to several species of terrestrial mammals ranging in size from the little brown bat to the famous Kodiak brown bear. The Kodiak brown bear is the only large mammal that is native to the island. Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goats and reindeer have been successfully introduced to Kodiak. Roosevelt elk were successfully transplanted to Afognak Island, where they now constitute a healthy population that occasionally has members that swim across to Kodiak Island. Smaller animals found in the parks include fox, rabbit, muskrat, squirrel and beaver. Gray, humpback and minke whales, harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters are seen frequently along the coastline. Surrounded by mountains, Pasagshak River offers outstanding sport fishing with silver salmon during the summer and fall runs.
The old fort at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park sits majestically on the cliffs above scenic Monashka Bay and can be explored through guided and self-guided historical walking tours. In early summer, visitors can watch whales migrate through Whale Passage. Fort Abercrombie also has 13 campsites designed primarily for tent campers (trailers and motorhomes have difficulty maneuvering on the narrow, rustic roads to the park).
Other activities include hunting, fishing, kayaking and camping. Buskin River State Recreation Site is southwest of the city near the airport and features a 15-site rustic campground along with two picnic shelters, a self-guided nature trail and good salmon fishing in the Buskin River. The Buskin River is one of the most productive fisheries on the Kodiak road system and features a handicapped-accessible fishing platform on the river. Even further to the south is Pasagshak River State Recreation Site, created in 1980 to provide access to the lower section of Pasagshak River for fishing. The recreation site has a 15-site campground with only a hand-pump well for drinking water and one latrine.
Both Afognak Island and Shuyak Island are wilderness state parks accessible only by float plane. There are few visitor facilities on the islands with the exception of public-use cabins, two on Afognak Island and four on Shuyak Island and a number of private fishing lodges.