Alaskan Cabin Comforts
Homer residents have officially proclaimed their community the "Halibut Capital of the World," but they could just as easily tout their town as the gateway to Kachemak Bay State Park. Nearly all park visits begin and end at this coastal town on the lower Kenai Peninsula (220 road miles south of Anchorage).
Exploring Prime Forests and Glaciers
Officially, there are two state parks across the bay from Homer: Kachemak Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park. But for all intents and purposes, these side-by-side parklands are treated as a single entity. Together they encompass 380,000 acres of mountains, glaciers, lakes, river valleys, ice- and snow-fields, coastal rain forest, alpine tundra, tidal marshes, sheltered bays, steep-walled fjords, waterfalls, storm-wracked outer coast, and ocean. No other Alaska state park, and only a couple national parks, can boast such diverse habitats, wildlife, and recreation.
Yet for all its abundance, Kachemak Bay remains one of Alaska's lesser known parklands. Visitors to Homer may marvel at the wilderness across the bay, but only one in four will set foot in the park, less than 10 miles away. The reason is simple: Access is limited to boat or plane.
Most who do cross over to the park stay within a narrow, 10-mile-long strip of coastline that boasts good fishing, excellent kayaking opportunities, and (in summer), daily water-taxi service. It's also where the park's visitor facilities are concentrated: ranger station, trails, campgrounds, and public-use cabins. Beyond this thin slice of coast, the park remains primitive and largely unpeopled.
The Cabin Options
Three of Kachemak Bay's public-use cabins are clustered in coastal forest at the southern end of Halibut Cove Lagoon, a north-south embayment due east of Homer. Built in 1992, the Lagoon Overlook Cabin is a three-room shelter that sleeps eight people and is heated by propane. The others, finished in 1997, are single-room cabins that sleep six each and are heated by wood stoves. All three are 16-by-20-feet shelters with table, benches, shelves, and counters for food preparation. Besides giving access to the coast, the cabins are near 40 miles of forest trail.
Weather permitting, kayakers may paddle six miles across often turbulent Kachemak Bay, then into Halibut Cove Lagoon. Another option is to catch one of Homer's water taxis. Because of water depths and tidal currents, boaters are advised to enter and exit the lagoon only at high tide; this may restrict cabin-based paddlers who wish to explore wilderness coastline beyond the lagoon.
Kayakers desiring a more remote setting might prefer the Sea Star Cove cabin, located on a wooded knoll above Tutka Bay, about 13 nautical miles from the Homer Spit. Also served by water taxi, this 16-by-16 cabin sleeps six on foam-padded bunks, is wood heated, and it too has table, benches, and counter.
Whatever cabin site they choose, visitors are likely to encounter lots of coastal wildlife. Puffins, kittiwakes, cormorants, bald eagles, sea otters, seals, porpoises, and whales are among the animals to make Kachemak Bay State Park their seasonal home.
Cost: $50 per night
Reservations: Up to 6 months in advance
Maximum stay: 7 nights
For more information: Alaska State Parks, Kenai Area Office, P.O. Box 1247, Soldotna, AK 99669, 907/262-5581; or DNR Public Information Center, 550 W. Seventh Ave., Suite 1260, Anchorage, AK 99501, 907/269-8400
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication