Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
1 Park Place
Port Alsworth, AK 99653
Access to the Lake Clark region is almost exclusively by small aircraft. Float planes may land on the many lakes throughout the area. Wheeled planes land on open beaches, gravel bars, or private airstrips in or near the park.
There is no highway access to the park and preserve.
A one- to two-hour flight from Anchorage, Kenai, or Homer will provide access to most points within the park and preserve. Scheduled commercial flights between Anchorage and Iliamna, 48 kilometers (30 miles) outside the boundary, provide another means of access.
Field headquarters for the park/preserve are located at Port Alsworth. There are no other National Park Service facilities available in the park and preserve.
This vast area may be harsh. Planning and preparing for a wilderness experience is critical to the enjoyment of the area in all conditions: wind, rain, snow, and sunshine.
Winter is long—October through April. In some locations the sun does not rise above the peaks for several months. A fresh snow can veil the area majestically or winter winds may uncover a landscape of subtle brown highlighted by ice-blue frozen lakes. Break-up in spring can immobilize the area, as ice melts and frozen ground turns to mud. Summer is the time of life as caribou calve, buds turn to leaves, mosquitoes hatch, and salmon return to spawn. Clouds often cap the Chigmit Mountains and occasionally close the passes to aircraft. Precipitation is about a third less on the west side, but everywhere rain produces a summer floral display. Fireweed, lupine, blueberry, and bearberry abound. In autumn the burgundy hued tundra blankets the slopes around aptly named Turquoise Lake. A light dusting of snow over the yellow birch and red bearberry produces a truly rare visual pleasure.
The area has been occupied since prehistoric times and archaeological investigations are continuing to trace early settlement. Dena'ina Indians lived in villages at Kijik and Old Village until the early 1900s, when they moved to Nondalton and other sites. Russian explorers, traders, and missionaries began traversing the region in the 1790s. The salmon industry began attracting American and foreign settlers in the early 1900s. Around Lake Clark most were trappers and miners. Recent years have produced an economy based on subsistence lifestyles, commercial fishing, and recreation activities.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve was established on December 2, 1980. The park contains approximately 1 million hectares (2.6 million acres); the preserve contains 565,000 hectares (1.4 million acres). Wilderness designation has been placed on 970,000 hectares (2.4 million acres) of the total.
Both continental and maritime elements influence the park's eastern region near Cook Inlet. June through August temperatures average between 10 and 18 degrees C (50 and 65 degrees F), with considerable precipitation. The park's interior—west of the Chigmit Mountains—and the preserve are warmer and drier in summer. Temperatures occasionally reach 27 degrees C (80 degrees F). Frost and snow can occur in September and October, and even in mid-summer you should anticipate evening frost. Snow permitting, March and early April are best for cross-country skiing. From mid-April to late May thawing streams and lakes make all travel difficult and dangerous. Strong winds—severe in and near the mountain passes—can occur at any time. Winter temperatures in the interior can plummet to -40 degrees C (-40 degrees F), and occasionally lower.
This is a vast area subject to harsh weather, high winds, and rain. Guard against hypothermia.
Animals are wild and must be respected. Both moose and brown bears are present. Information about handling wildlife encounters is available at the National Park Service office. Please review the brochures before traveling in the backcountry.
Mosquitoes and biting flies may require a head net and/or repellent.
Drinking water should be boiled for one minute before use. Giardia could be a problem in some bodies of water.
You should know—and test—your gear before you arrive, and you must possess good backcountry skills for wilderness survival. For your safety, leave your itinerary with someone and notify that person on completion of your trip.
Winter travel can only be recommended to those experienced in cold weather camping and survival techniques.
Please contact the park to obtain a list of the latest regulations and safety guidelines to help you plan your visit.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication