Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is located in the southwestern portion of Alaska in the United States of America. The park holds 4,030,015 acres of land and water that was once inhabited by Native Americans, with the northern Athabaskans till residing there today. The first explore of European ancestry to visit the area was James Cook, a British Captain who visited the Cook Inlet in 1778.

Americans began visiting the area in the 1890’s for trading purposes, by which time the once large population of Native Americans in the area had been greatly reduced. Several Americans inhabited the area in the early 20h century for its isolation, including Richard Proenneke, whose cabin has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The establishment of the park occurred in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter established the area as a national monument. In 1980, the monument was re-established as a national park when Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve can be found about one hundred miles to the southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, in the Alaska Peninsula. The preserve holds about 1,400,000 acres, while the park holds about 2,637,000 acres, with 2,619,550-acres holding the designated Lake Clark Wilderness. The area extends from the center of Alaska, through the Chigmit Mountains and the Alaskan Range, and to the Cook Inlet. The largest area in the park is Lake Clark, and the eastern portion of the park holds two volcanoes including Redoubt Volcano, which last erupted in 2009.

Four distinct physiographic, or geological, areas hold different ecosystems and landscapes within Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. These include a coastal habitat along the Cook Inlet, mountainous habitats found in the Alaskan, Chigmit, and Aleutian Ranges, Boreal forests, and salt marshes. The salt marshes hold some of the most abundant wildlife in the park, although the only comprise about one percent of the park’s total area. The marshes hold a wide variety of fish that provide a steady food source for black bears and brown bears. One of these areas, known as Kvichak River, holds the world’s most abundant population of sockeye salmon, which provides thirty-three percent of America’s sockeye salmon catch. This population of salmon is also said to support an entire pack of wolves.

The weather in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve varies depending upon the habitat, but the temperature averages between 50 °F and 65 °F during the summer months, with an average low of 1 °F during the winter months. Animals that reside in the park include gray wolves, Dall’s sheep, red foxes, lynxes, and marine life like beluga whales and harbor seals.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve cannot be accessed by road, but visitors can enter the park by air taxi or boat. Access points occur on Lake Clark and along the Cook Inlet. Visitors can stay in private lodges and can partake in many activities including camping, hiking, kayaking, and rafting. Visitors can view the wildlife in the area and can fish in both the park and preserve, but hunting is only allowed in the reserve. Lake Clark National park and Preserve is open throughout the year.

Image Caption: Lake Clark, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Credit: Ryjil Christianson/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)