Alagnak
Wild River
Alaska
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Unbounded by dams or artificial channels, the Alagnak makes its way from headwaters in the Aleutian Range across the Alaska Peninsula to Bristol Bay. Along its course, this wild river nourishes more wild—a place where we humans work and play by nature's rules.

Lifeline Through Tundra

As remote as the Alagnak River seems to us today, it has supported human activity for thousands of years. From the time of the earliest Alaskans, the river has given much to those willing to learn its ways.

Mid-summer waters teem with salmon. Fall brings migrating caribou herds and a harvest of salmonberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Winter, frozen and seemingly endless, yields fish and game for hunters, trappers, and ice fishers.

The Alagnak's upper reaches have sparse remains of riverside camps used 7,000-9,000 years ago. In 2004 archeologists studied a riverside village 1,200-2,300 years old. Partially underground dwellings were reinforced by sturdy wooden posts that probably came from far away. Many items point to cold weather use: central fire pits, stone oil lamps, food storage pits, and stone projectile points for hunting caribou.

The Alagnak came to the attention of the outside world in 1852 when Russian Capt. Mikhail Tebenkov, surveying the Alaska coast, sailed up the river from Bristol Bay. After Alaska became US territory in 1867, American settlers built cabins and small villages along the banks. Some of the homes are still there, abandoned to the elements.

In the early 1900s two salmon canneries were built near the river's mouth, connected by a narrow-gauge railroad. Cannery jobs drew people from all over the world. Commercial fishing is still big business; Bristol Bay is Alaska's largest commercial salmon fishery.

Alagnak Wild River was established in 1980. In this federally protected area many activities are still compatible with preserving the river corridor unimpaired for future generations. Though they no longer live in riverside villages, modern native people—Yupik, Alutiiq, Denaina and others—carry on traditional subsistence hunting, gathering, fishing, and trapping.

Recreational pursuits like sport fishing, canoeing, and rafting offer you the rare gift of your own connection with the wild Alagnak.

Wild Alagnak

From its source at Kukaklek Lake, the Alagnak twists and braids through vast tundra, joins with the Kvichak River, and ends in Bristol Bay. Its uppermost 69 miles are designated a wild river, meaning free flow, no dams, and little human impact.

A major reason for protecting the wild river is its importance to the life cycle of Pacific salmon species—sockeye, pink, chum, king, silver. Salmon hatch in rocky shallows and stay in freshwater lakes for about two years, until they're large enough to journey downstream to the ocean. They spend three or so years in salt water, then return mid-summer to their freshwater birthplace to spawn and die.

Many animals eat salmon—even other fish. Brown bears routinely fish for bright red sockeyes along the banks. The river and its bounty also draw caribou, moose, beaver, foxes, wolverines, minks, otters, and wolves. Bald eagles, sandhill cranes, ospreys, and other birds feast on many kinds of fish that thrive in the cold, clean water.

Alagnak's waters nourish riverside communities of spruce, willow, and grasses. For subsistence use, native residents can harvest salmonberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, fiddlehead ferns, wild celery, and sourdock.

Your Visit to Alagnak Wild River

park map
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Alagnak Wild River was established in 1980 as part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which added 47 million acres of national parklands. The wild river designation includes the Alagnak's upper 69 miles to its source lakes in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Accommodations and Services
Alagnak is in a remote part of the Alaska Peninsula. There are no roads or scheduled flights to anyplace along the river. Air charters are available from Anchorage, King Salmon, and other points.

The park has no visitor center or public facilities. The park website lists private lodges and outfitters who arrange transportation, accommodations, sport fishing, and float trips. If you plan to visit on your own, contact the park staff in advance.

Private Lands
There are many privately owned parcels and native corporation lands along the river. Don't assume that you can pull up to shore just anywhere. Abandoned cabins should be left as you find them.

Be Bear Aware!
Brown bears are active day and night, and can be anywhere. Salmon-lovers, they are especially drawn to human fishing activity. Do not approach them. While hiking, make noise to let them know you're there. If a bear approaches you, stay calm and stand your ground or back off slowly. Store food, cooking equipment, and trash in bear-resistant containers.

For more about safety, including firearms regulations, visit the park website.

Source: NPS Brochure (2014)


Establishment

Alagnak Wild River — Dec. 2, 1980


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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

Alagnak Wild River: An Illustrated Guide to the Cultural History of the Alagnak Wild River (2006)

Bear-Human Conflict Management Plan, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Alagnak Wild River (March 2006)

Foundation Statement, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska (December 2009)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Katmai National Park and Preserve and Alagnak Wild River NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2016/1314 (Chad P. Hults and Judy Fierstein, September 2016)

Invasive Species Management for Alagnak Wild River

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2012 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KATM/NRDS—2013/429 (Allison Connealy and Claire Parker, January 2013)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2013 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KATM/NRDS—2014/672 (Nicole Landry and Aleksandra Voznitza, June 2014)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2014 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/KATM/NRDS—2015/747 (Victoria Anderson and Alex Lindsey, January 2015)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2015 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KATM/NRR—2015/1096 (Jordon C. Tourville and Melissa S. Armstrong, December 2015)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2016 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KATM/NRR—2016/1349 (Christine A. DeVries and Nicole E. Zampieri, December 2016)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2017 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KATM/NRR—2018/1624 (Stephen B. Caron and Jessica L. Westbrook, April 2018)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2018 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KATM/NRR—2020/2094 (Kayla Sherman and Thomas Hatton, March 2019)

Invasive Species Management for Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alagnak Wild River, and Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 2019 Summary Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/KATM/NRR—2020/2130 (Lillian Setters and Shayla Ramos, May 2020)

Lake Temperature Monitoring in Southwest Alaska Parks: A Synthesis of Year-Round, Multi-Depth Data from 2006 through 2018 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SWAN/NRR-2020/2191 (Krista K. Bartz and Paul W.C. Gabriel, November 2020)

Long-Range Interpretive Plan, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Alagnak Wild River (December 2009)

Management Plan, Alagnak Wild River, Alaska (November 1983)

Monitoring Responses to Climate Change in Southwest Alaska (February 2010)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Katmai National Park and Preserve and Alagnak Wild River NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SWAN/NRR-2015/1095 (Jacob Zanon, Mike R. Komp, Jon Sopcak, Kevin M. Benck, Kathy Allen, Kevin J. Stark, Lonnie J. Meinke, Andrew Robertson and Barry Drazkowski, December 2015)

Park Newspaper (The Novarupta): 2007c20092014201620172018201920212022

Water Resources Information and Issues Overview Report: Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alagnak Wild River NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NRPC/WRD/NRTR—2007/057 (Jenny Biggs, Rusty Myers, Page Spencer, Linda Stromquist, Don Weeks and Jeff Bennett, October 2007)

Wild and Scenic River Values, Alagnak Wild River (May 2015)



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Last Updated: 14-Apr-2022