Chilkat Islands State Marine Park

Alaska - Chilkat Islands State Marine ParkThe Alaskan Panhandle has many sites where nature’s beauty has been preserved. One of these is the Chilkat Islands State Marine Park. It is a four island chain located on the Lynn Canal north of the City of Juneau. From the southernmost island to the northernmost, they are Kataguni, Shikosi, Anyaka, and Talsani.

If traveling by boat towards the marine park, the Eldred Rock Lighthouse can be seen upon entering the canal which marks the lower end of the Chilkat River. This structure first became operational in 1906 and has been in existence for more than a hundred years. It is the oldest Alaskan lighthouse which is still mostly the original structure that was built; and, in 1973, it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard. The small island is home to several species of seabirds and oyster catchers. Otters can also be seen rollicking in and around it.

Moving further north, Seduction Point on the Chilkat Peninsula can be seen. It marks the point at which the canal divides into two – the Chilkat Inlet towards the left and the Chilkoot Inlet towards the right when facing north towards Seduction Point. The Chilkoot Inlet leads to the Skagway area. Further north of that is the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The other inlet leads to the Haines area. Both places have airports so the marine park may be accessed via these areas also.

East of the marine park is the Tonggas National Forest that contains the Kakunan Range and the Sinclair Mountain. Towards the west, the Sullivan Mountain can be seen and another island that houses the Sullivan State Marine Park. North of Sullivan Mountain is the Davidson Glacier and further west of these two is the Glacier Bay Park and Wilderness. A couple of landing strips can be found at the base of Sullivan Mountain towards the coast along the Lynn Canal.

The island chain of the Chilkat Islands State Marine Park can be accessed best by kayak. These small craft have shallow drafts and, because they are lightweight, can be carried ashore. It would be advisable to make sure that the kayak is brought to a point above the high tide mark. The island of Shikosi has a bay that is ideally situated for this. Other means of getting to the island would be difficult and challenging due to the areas erratic high winds. This and the fact that the beaches and area around the islands are rocky make anchorage dangerous.

Those who enjoy wilderness islands will find this place alluring. It is composed of 6,560 acres of undeveloped parkland. Camping would definitely be unique. The scenery within and around the islands are breath taking. Definitely a place where a camera built for rugged conditions would come in handy. This wildlife viewing, both flora and fauna, in the wild would be quite an experience. For instance, because the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is close by, bald eagles are quite common in the winter. Several thousand of them can be seen feeding on chum salmon in the Chilkat River, which is only about three miles long.

Because it is a marine park, with several marine parks close by, the marine wild life is diverse and thriving. The word “chilkat” literally means salmon storehouse. The great king salmon is common in the Chilkat River with other the other varieties in other areas close by – like the chum, coho, pink and sockeye Pacific species. Not only salmon but also kayaking beside Orcas and humpback whales is a possibility.

The adventure that the area provides naturally is not without its hazards. Particularly in places like the Chilkat Islands State Marine Park where visitors are uncommon and the park is largely undeveloped. Also the weather conditions in the area are very variable and might be quite problematic for those travelling to and from the chain of islands. Up to date information about the area is critical and regular contact with volunteers of the Southeast Area Office of the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Alaska DNR, would be advisable. They can be reached by phone, (907) 465-4563, or by emailing Joel Telford, joel.telford@alaska.gov.