Natural Features and Ecosystems
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve's 4 million acres include the north end of the Alaska Peninsula in south-central Alaska. The park straddles the Chigmit Mountains, bridging the Aleutian Range to the southwest and the Alaska Range to the north. Mountainous terrain rises from the coastline of western Cook Inlet, framed by rugged peaks and spires, glaciers, and snow-clad volcanoes. West of the mountains lies a region characterized by braided glacial rivers, cascading streams, waterfalls, turquoise lakes, boreal forest and tundra. Unique environmental features and ecosystems support this untamed wilderness.
The park's lakes, rivers, and streams protect the water quality and significant portions of the headwaters spawning grounds of North America's greatest salmon runs of Bristol Bay. Both the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers flowing into Bristol Bay find their headwaters in the park and preserve.
Along the Cook Inlet coastline unique and isolated meadows form at the base of towering volcanoes from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve down the coast through Katmai National Park and Preserve. Spring sedges in the meadows provide essential protein for bears emerging from their dens before the summer silver salmon runs begin in the adjacent rivers. Stunning concentrations of coastal brown bears live in these unique environments.
The park's active volcanoes are constantly monitored by the Alaska Volcano Observatory of the United States Geological Survey. Redoubt Volcano most recently erupted in 2009 spewing ash across southcentral Alaska and mudflows down the Drift River.
In the western portion of the park and preserve lies a land of boreal forest and tundra, both circumpolar biomes of northern latitudes. The human boundaries that define the park and preserve are but artificial lines on a map. This is never more apparent than in the boreal forest and tundra ecosystems where wolves, bears, and other wildlife travel enormous distances to eke out a living, where winds blow from every direction, and interconnected surface and groundwater systems flow in complicated and unknown ways.
Did You Know?
Salmon migrate to the Lake Clark area from as far away as the western end of the Aleutian chain. During their homeward journey, they average 35 miles per day.