Lake Clark NP : A Perfect Little Gem

Nancy Bandley is back! She was on the road for awhile, collecting more National Park Passport Stamps and participating in the annual Park Stampers Convention -- which was held this year at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. Now that she's back at her keyboard, she has submitted part 7 of her series "So you want to go to Alaska?" This week we've got Lake Clark National Park which Nancy describes as a "perfect little gem". We pick up this week's journey, having left off last time at Yukon Charlie Rivers. ~ jersu

Lake Clark National Park : Tanalian Mountain : NPS PhotoMoving west from Yukon Carlie Rivers, we come to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. This remote location is often overlooked by people visiting Alaska, simply because it is that -- remote, all 4 million acres of it. There is really only one way to get here, by small plane. Your choice is either to choose a float plane to land on one of the many lakes in this park, or to choose a wheeled bush plane which leaves Anchorage for Port Alsworth, where the main Visitor Center is located. Lake Clark Air, which is still operated by descendants of the original 1940's homesteader Alsworth family, is grandfathered into this park. They operate a hotel (The Farm Lodge) which is located within a few yards of the park visitor center. Their wheeled flights are the most convenient service to the main VC, as float planes cannot get you as close. Lake Clark, an absolutely gorgeous blue lake, is 50 miles long and is inhabited by all five species of Salmon.

There are no highways here (are you getting tired of hearing that yet?? just wait 'til we go up north!). The flight from Anchorage is about one to two hours long (180 miles away), and at the VC you can get the information needed to make the most of your visit. There are also flights out of Kenai and Homer, but I believe most of them are float planes. For float plane travel, a must visit is to Twin Lakes (a stamping location), the location of Richard Proenneke's cabin, which is in use as a small VC by the NPS. Richard Proenneke retired at the age of 50 and built a cabin on the shores of Twin Lakes, there he lived alone for the next 30 years. PBS has produced an excellent film about his life "Alone in the Wilderness". I highly recommend for everyone to see it, as it is often shown on PBS channels and if you watch for it, you won't be disappointed.

This park is a fisherman's delight, with catch and release programs for Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char, Arctic Greyling, Lake Trout and Northern Pike. Hiking is via one maintained trail, approximately 2 miles long to Tanalian Falls. There is also a 7 mile round trip trail around Lake Clark to the base of 3,600 foot Tanalian Mountain. There's Moose, Dall Sheep and bear, both black and brown (Grizzly). For all these activities, fishing, hiking or backpacking, you must be self sufficient. The mountains are steep, very rugged and often subject to inclement weather. There are a ton of glaciers in the park and preserve and they are huge! I nicknamed one the Freeway because it was as large as an 8 lane highway as we flew just slightly over it on our trip to and from Port Alsworth. There are two active volcanoes in the park, both over 10,000 feet tall, Mt. Iliamna (last eruption 1953) and Mt. Redoubt (last eruption 1966-1968). Just to the south and east of here lies Mt Augustine, which last erupted in April 2006.

On the Cook Inlet side, where the rivers rush to the ocean, you will find puffins, cormorants, kittiwakes and other seabirds. Seals and whales are also commonly sighted here. As you look across the bay, you'll see Homer, the Salmon Fishing Capital of Alaska.

Next stop: Denali