Visitor Use, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Visitors watch bears in Lake Clark.
Visitors watch bears at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Bear watching is the number one activity.
Understanding visitor use patterns across the parks and over time allows park managers to assess where rangers and staff need to be stationed and where impacts to resources (such as trampling) may need to be monitored or mitigated in the future. Likewise, visitor use patterns may also inform commercial business operators (such as guides or air taxies) by providing insights to the areas currently visited and the timing of visits, details that are helpful when planning their services.
A graph of visitor use by year and area of the park.
Figure 1. Silver Salmon Creek, Crescent Lake, and Chinitna Bay are the most-visited locations in Lake Clark NP&Pres. This graph shows total visitor use days by location (2008-2017) for the three most-visited locations on the coast and the interior.

[Data from the Lake Clark NP&Pres CUA database 1/23/18]

Park Visitation Increases

Over the last ten years, the number of visitor use days reported by businesses operating in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (NP&Pres) has increased from approximately 4,000 days to almost 17,000 days. Most of this increase has been on the Cook Inlet (coastal) side of the park. In 2017, Crescent Lake, Silver Salmon Creek, and Chinitna Bay were the most highly visited places in the park, together accounting for over 75% of visitation (over 10,000 days combined). Crescent Lake has seen a phenomenal growth in visitor use, increasing from around 700 reported visitor use days in 2008 to approximately 5,000 in 2017, a seven-fold increase (Figure 1).
A graph of visitor use days by month and year.
Figure 2. The number of visitor use days for May-September for 2007-2017.

[Data from the Lake Clark NP&Pres CUA database 1/23/18]

Approximately two-thirds of the visitation occurs in July and August. In spite of the increase in visitation over ten years, the timing of the visits has stayed about the same (Figure 2). The three most popular activities at the park are bear viewing, sport fishing, and photography (Figure 3).

There has been significant growth in the number of visitors coming to Lake Clark NP&Pres to participate in these activities. The number of visitor use days reporting bear viewing as their main activity has risen from approximately 1,000 people in 2007 to about 6,500 in 2017, more than a six-fold increase.
A graph of activity by year.
Figure 3. In recent years, bear viewing has surpassed sport fishing as the most popular activity. The number of visitor use days for each of the main activities in Lake Clark NP&Pres from 2007-2017.

[Data from the Lake Clark NP&Pres CUA database 1/23/18]

The number of reported user days focused on sport fishing and photography has tripled in this same period of time. The percentage of people that are either bear viewing or photographing in the park is approximately 57%, with 23% sport fishing. The number of reported visitor use days for all other activities has stayed relatively constant, with air taxis seeing an increase in recent years (Figure 3).

Methods

Remote Alaska parks do not have entrance stations to count people visiting the park. Some local visitation occurs, but the vast majority of visitors to Lake Clark NP&Pres use a lodge, guiding service, or air taxi operator. These commercial operators pay a fee for each visitor they bring to the park, and report back to the park the number of visitors, activities visitors are engaged in, and where within the park visitors go. Each park is divided into areas, roughly corresponding to watersheds. Areas with concentrated use have been sub-divided into smaller areas to provide more specificity. The data collected by commercial operators are the primary means to quantify and understand visitation patterns and public uses in Lake Clark.

Last updated: February 28, 2018