Wild, Spectacular Scenic Diversity
Dynamic forces of fire and ice have shaped Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Over many millennia glaciers gouged and shaped new landforms created by volcanic eruptions and uplifts of the Earth's crust. These contrasting forces are still active todayas glaciers shroud the shoulders of the park's imposing and potentially active volcanoes. Redoubt (10,197 ft) and Iliamna (10,016 ft), on the Cook Inlet coast.
Lake Clark National Park's nearly 2.6 million acres include the rugged Chigmit Mountains bounded by the Aleutian Range to the south and the Alaska Range to the north. Relentless grinding of tectonic plates, uplift, earthquakes, and glacial scraping, scouring, and mounding created the Chigmits' awesome, jagged array of peaks. The national preserve encompasses more than 1.4 million acres and adjoins the park to the south and west, with rolling foothills, boreal forests, alpine lakes, wild rivers, and sweeping expanses of tundra. The varied topography of the park and preserve creates habitats for a diverse mix of plants and animals.
On their west side the Chigmits descend via tundra-covered foothills to boreal forest and include spectacular wilderness with lakes and wild rivers flowing southwest toward Bristol Bay. The area supports a variety of large land mammals including Dall sheep, caribou, moose, wolves, and black and brown bears. Lake Clark stretches 40 miles, and its watershed provides critical spawning and rearing habitats for sockeye salmon and sustains the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, one of the world's largest sockeye salmon fisheries.
The park and preserve beckon anglers, wildlife viewers, river runners, campers, backpackers, and mountaineers. Anglers find world-class fishing for rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, lake trout, northern pike, and arctic grayling. River runners raft or kayak the Tlikakila, Mulchatna, or Chilikadrotna national wild rivers. Campers and backpackers explore high tundra valleys, foothills, and secluded lakeshores in the park's wilderness areas, and some of America's most remote, rugged peaks challenge mountaineers.
East of the Chigmits, Cook Inlet features shallow bays, rocky headlands, and many offshore reefs populated by marine mammalsharbor seals, Steller sea lions, sea otters, harbor porpoises, and beluga whales. From the Chigmits' eastern flank, rivers rush to tidewater through coastal rainforests of Sitka and white spruce. En route these rivers create marshes and outwash plainsprime habitat for bald eagles, diverse migratory birds, and resident waterfowl. In spring, brown bears feed in sedge meadows of estuaries, where salt and fresh waters mix, and in summer catch salmon in streams and rivers flowing into Cook Inlet. Coastal cliffs hold not only fossil remnants of 150 million years of sea life but provide habitat for peregrine falcons and rookeries for puffins, cormorants, kittiwakes, and other seabirds.
This richly diverse region has been a homeland for Native Alaskan peoples for centuries, with Dena'ina Athabascan sites throughout today's park and preserve, and areas of Yup'ik occupation along the southern part of Iliamna Lake. Many Dena'ina people living near Lake Clark today have roots at Kijik, a national historic landmark and archeological district. It once supported a large, multi-village community. Kijik, from the Dena'ina, Qizhjeh, means "a place where people gathered."
The 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) created 10 new National Park System areas, including Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. ANILCA gives rural Alaska residents priority for subsistence uses of fish and wildlife on federal public lands. Residents of Nondalton, Iliamna. Lime Village, Newhalen, Pedro Bay, and Port Alsworth, and people living in the park, continue to engage in subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering activities inside the park and preserve under state and federal regulations. These communities and the area inside the park are designated resident zone communities because their residents have a long history of using resources in the park for their sustenance and livelihood.
In ANILCA, Congress also designated more than 2.4 million acres of the park as wilderness to preserve the area's natural conditions and wilderness character in perpetuity as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Access and Information
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is not on the road system. Access is primarily by small aircraft. Scheduled commercial flights between Anchorage and Port Alsworth provide direct access, and flights from Anchorage to Nondalton and Iliamna put you near the park. Commercial air charter services in Anchorage, Port Alsworth, Kenai, and Homer give access to remote park areas.
The field headquarters and visitor center in Port Alsworth provide visitor information and basic emergency services. Several remote cabins throughout the park are staffed in summer to help the backcountry traveler. The field headquarters also offers detailed area information, topographic maps, park guides, and lists of local accommodations and services.
The administrative office is at 240 West Fifth Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501. There is also a field office at 2181 Kachemak Dr., Homer, AK 99603.
What to See and Do
The vast undeveloped areas of the park (2.6 million acres) and preserve (1.4 million acres) include rugged mountains, active volcanoes, dramatic glaciers, wild rivers and scenic lakes, boreal forests, open expanses of tundra, and jagged coastlines.
For most activities you must either be well-equipped and self-sufficient when you arrive or make arrangements ahead with a guide, outfitter, or lodge operator. Air services in Port Alsworth, Anchorage, Kenai, and Homer offer drop-off services, flightseeing, and day trips for fly-in fishing and viewing bears and other wildlife. A system of hiking trails begins in Port Alsworth and provides access to Tanalian Mountain, Tanalian Falls, and Kontrashibuna Lake for day hikes and short backpacking trips. There are no other developed trails.
Mountainous areas are steep and rugged and subject to inclement weather all year. Lowlands can be boggy, wet, and dotted with dense thickets of alder and willow scrub. To explore backcountry, consider backpacking in the western foothills. where you can travel on open and relatively dry tundra.
Three national wild riversTlikakila, Chilikadrotna and Mulchatnaprovide opportunities for float trips and sport fishing. Sport fishing is allowed in both the park and preserve. The preserve is open to sport hunting under State of Alaska regulations. The park is closed to sport hunting.
Note: Winter travel is recommended only for people experienced with cold-weather camping and survival techniques.
Weather, Precautions, and Safety
Temperatures on the park's east side near Cook Inlet average between 50° and 65°F from June through August with heavy precipitation. The park's interiorwest of the Chigmit Mountainsis warmer and drier in summer with temperatures reaching 80°F.
Frost and snow can occur in September and Octoberanticipate frost even in mid-summer. March and early April are best for crosscountry skiing, snow permitting. From mid-April to late May thawing streams and lakes make all travel difficult and dangerous. Strong winds can occur at any time and may be severe in and near mountain passes. Winter temperatures in the interior can fall to -40°F or lower.
You should know and test your gear before you arrive and possess backcountry skills for wilderness survival. Filter, chemically treat, or boil all drinking water. Leave an itinerary with someone before you head out and notify them when you complete your trip.
Brown and black bears, moose, caribou, wolves, and other animals are wild and not used to humans. Stay at a safe distance and do not approach closely. Get information on wildlife encounters at the visitor center in Port Alsworth and be familiar with it before starting your trip.
Note: Many local residents live a subsistence way of life and many tracts of private land are in the park and preserve. These parcels are not open to public use without land owners' permission. Please be courteous and respect private property.
Guides, Outfitting, and Supplies
Few places sell equipment and supplies in the park. Stores in Nondalton and Iliamnaair access onlysell limited foodstuffs and gear. Plan to outfit in Kenai, Homer, or Anchorage and bring adequate food and gear so you are self-sufficient and prepared for changing weather and potential emergencies.
Merchants in Nondalton, Iliamna, and Port Alsworth and lodges on Lake Clark and the Cook Inlet coast offer rooms, cabins, meals, and guide and outfitter services. These services are limited, so make your arrangements well in advance. Some air and boat charter operators also provide guides and rental equipment see nps.gov/akso/concessions for a list of licensed operators.
You are generally on your own and dependent on your own resources here. Bring high-quality clothing and gear: synthetic pile and wind-proof outerwear, thermal underwear, rain gear, and tents able to withstand strong winds with rain flies and mosquito netting. Insect repellent and sunscreen are highly recommended. All food, toiletries, and garbage should be carried and stored in bear resistant containers. These may be checked out at the visitor center in Port Alsworth. Carry emergency food rations because bad weather can delay your scheduled pick-up.
Source: NPS Brochure (2006)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A 20th-Century Portrait of Lake Clark, Alaska 1900-2000 (companion DVD) (John B. Branson, 2014)
Acoustic Bat Monitoring in Alaska National Parks 2016-2018 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/AKRO/NRR-2020/2096 (Paul A. Burger, March 2020)
An Inventory of Middle Jurassic Fossils and their Stratigraphic Setting at Fossil Point, Tuxedni Bay, Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, Alaska NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/LACL/NRR-2015/932 (Robert B. Blodgett, Chad P. Hults, Linda Stromquist, Vincent L. Santucci and Justin S. Tweet, March 2015)
Assessment of Coastal Water Resources and Watershed Conditions, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NRPc/WRD/NRTR-2008/144 (Sonia Nagorski, Eran Hood, Sanjay Pyare and Ginny Eckert, December 2008)
Bald Eagle Nest Survey, Lake National Park and Preserve, Alaska NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/LACL/NRDS-2011/313 (Leslie A. Witter and Buck M. Mangipane, October 2011)
Dena'ina Elnena: A Celebration, Voices of the Dena'ina NPS Research/Resource Management Report NPS/AR/CCR/2010-75 (Karen E. Evanoff, ed., March 2010)
Distribution and Characteristics of Sockeye Salmon Spawning Habitats in the Lake Clark Watershed, Alaska NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-2005/338 (Daniel B. Young, August 2005)
Ecological Land Survey and Soil Landscapes Map for Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 2011 NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/LACL/NRTR—2013/693 (Aaron Wells, Matt Macander, Torre Jorgenson, Tracy Christopherson, Becky Baird and Ellen Trainor, February 2013)
Evaluation of the Bear Viewing Experience and Associated Thresholds at Katmai National Park and Preserve and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve: 2017-2020 (Matthew T.J. Brownlee and Ryan L. Sharp, 2020)
Fossil Point (Lake Clark National Park & Preserve): Alaska's "Jurassic Park" for Middle Jurassic Invertebrate Fossils (Robert B. Blodgett and Vincent L. Santucci, from Dakoterra, v6, Proceedings of the 10th Conference on Fossil Resources, May 2014)
Geochemistry of the Johnson River, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 2003-4252 (Timothy P. Brabets, Rod S. March and Dennis C. Trabant, 2004)
Geologic Resources Inventory Report: Lake Clark National Park and Preserve NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2021/2331 (Amanda Lanik, Jason Rogers and Ronald D. Karpilo, Jr., November 2021)
Glacial history and runoff components of the Tlikakila River Basin, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5057 (Timothy P. Brabets, Rod S. March and Dennis C. Trabant, 2004)
Historic Resource Study, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska (Harlan D. Unrau, 1994)
Image interpretation and Classification of Land Cover Change in Lake Clark and Kenai Fjords National Parks Between 1954 and 2009 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SOPN/NRR-2014/866 (Mark J. Burchiel, Bonnie L. Maffitt, Andy G. Robertson, Dave D. Rokus and Kevin J. Stark, October 2014)
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve land cover mapping project user's guide Natural Resource Technical Report. NPS/LACL/NRTR1998/001 (M. Golden and P. Spencer, 1998)
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)
Monitoring Coastal Salt Marshes in the Lake Clark and Katmai National Parklands of the Southwest Alaska Network NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SWAN/NRTR—2010/338 (M. Torre Jorgenson, Gerald V. Frost, Amy E. Miller, Page Spencer, Michael Shephard, Buck A. Mangipane, Claudette Moore and Charles Lindsay, June 2010)
Monitoring Responses to Climate Change in Southwest Alaska (February 2010)
Monitoring Vegetation Change in Coastal Marshes of Southwest Alaska, 2007-2018 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SWAN/NRR-2020/2202 (Michael P. Hannam, Amy E. Miller and James K. Walton, December 2020)
More Readings From One Man's Wilderness: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke, 1974-1980 NPS Research/Resources Management Report AR/CRR-2005-53 (John Branson, ed., 2005)
Nanutset ch'u Q'udi Gu: Before Our Time and Now: An Ethnohistory of Lake Clark National Park & Preserve NPS Research/Resources Management Report NPS/AR/CCR/2007-58 (Karen K. Gaul, December 2007)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Dr. Elmer Bly House (John B. Branson, September 1, 2005)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/LACL/NRR-2016/1250 (Jacob Zanon, Mike R. Komp, Andy J. Nadeau, Matthew Randerson, Andrew Robertson and Barry Drazkowski, July 2016)
Orthorectification of Historic Imagery for Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and Katmai National Park and Preserve: Final Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SWAN/NRTR—2014/864 (Andrew Robertson, Jeffrey Knopf, David Johnson and Bonnie Maffitt, April 2014)
Path Distance Analysis to Determine Accessibility for Long-term Vegetation Monitoring Program, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SWAN/NRTR—2008/126 (Dorothy C. Mortenson and Amy E. Miller, February 2008)
"Respect the Land It's Like Part of Us": A Traditional Use Study of Indland Dena'ina Ties to the Chulitna River and Sixmile Lake Basins, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (Douglas Deur, Karen Evanoff and Jamie Hebert, 2018)
Shtutda'ina Da'a Sheł Qudeł: My Forefathers are Still Walking with Me Verbal Essays on Qizhjeh and Tsaynen Dena'ina Traditions, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Snug Harbor Cannery: A Beacon on the Forgotten Shore 1919-1980 NPS Research/Resources Management Report AR/CRR-2005-53 (Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth, 2005)
State of the Park Report, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska State of the Park Series No. 28 (2016)
The Canneries, Cabins and Caches of Bristol Bay, Alaska NPS Research/Resources Management Report 2007-63 (John B. Branson, November 2007, 2nd printing June 2009)
The Life and Times of John W. Clark of Nushagak, Alaska, 1846-1896 NPS Research/Resources Management Report NPS/AR/CRR-2012-77 (John B. Branson, 2012)
Tree-ring Reconstruction of Historic Insect Outbreaks in Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks and Preserves: Final Report NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SWAN/NRTR—2011/482 (Rosemary Sherriff and Ed Berg, August 2011)
Water Quality of the Crescent River Basin, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 2003-2004 USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5151 (Timothy P. Brabets and Robert T. Ourso, 2006)
Water Quality of the Tlikakila River and five major tributaries to Lake Clark, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 1999-2001 USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 2002-4127 (Timothy P. Brabets, 2002)
Water Quality, Physical Habitat, and Biology of the Kijik River Basin, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 2004-2005 USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5123 (Timothy P. Brabets and Robert T. Ourso, 2006)
West Cook Inlet: Ethnographic Overview and Assessment for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve NPS Research/Resources Management Report NPS/AR/CCR 2007-59 (Ronald T. Stanek, James A. Fall and Davin L. Holen, December 2006)
"Where We Found A Whale": A History of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve NPS Research/Resources Management Report NPR/AP/CRR/2008-69 (Brian Fagan, 2008)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 16-Dec-2021