Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bald Eagle on Eklutna Lake

June 29 - Eklutna Lake, AK - 10 miles into the Chugash State Park off the Glenn Highway north of Anchorage lies a gem of an Alpine Lake called Eklutna.  There is a state campground at the end of the paved road, and from there you can take an easy hike along the lake, or a more strenuous hike up into the Alpine high onto Twin Peaks.  If you come Sunday through Wednesday expect to hear swarms of ATV enthusiasts on the lakeside road, kicking up dust, but generally much less disturbing overall compared to Motorcycles or snow mobiles.  You can rent single or double kayaks at the concession (or mountain bikes too) at the lake for a reasonable rate and the park does not permit any gas powered motorized boats on the lake with only a walk-in ramp.  canoes and kayaks only.  The water is a grey/pale green/ blue from the glacial silt contributed by the glacier at the lake's head. The park has a cabin on the lake, at about 3.5 miles in, that you can reserve. There are also two campsites at the end of the lake that have outhouses. There is a flat dirt road, great for mountain biking running all the way down the east shore, so you can use that road to access the hiking trail up Bold ridge. You can also make a day trip from the campsite at the far end of the lake to Serenity Falls and Hut.

Because of the road and the 4 wheelers some of the week, wildlife is pretty scarce on the east side of the lake, but if you paddle up the west side of the lake keep your eyes out for Eagles.  The large scavenger birds tend to perch in dead tree limbs at the water's edge on the downwind shore, waiting to see what the wind will carry across the lake to their dinner table,

The lake is deceptively big, and the water is cold, like 45 degrees cold, and being nestled tight in a glacial valley, the weather can change very rapidly.  The steep chop builds fast as the lake's shores rise suddenly at the edges.  The lake is used as the primary drinking water source for Anchorage, and that same water is used to generate electricity on it's way down the hill. Because of that draw on the water, this natural lake has more the look of a reservoir around the shores, with a steep, graveled bank, rising some 20 feet during our visit before reaching the vegetation line.  I would guess at different times of the year, and during different weather cycles this rocky shore may grow, or disappear, but there are no shore mammals, like beavers or otters or muskrats that would otherwise occupy this special environmental niche due to the unnatural fluctuations of the water level. It's still very pretty, with the snow capped Chugash Mountains Comfortably nestled at the end of the lake beckoning the adventuresome traveler and the heavily forested slopes pleasantly covering the hillsides below the alpine. If you are not an ATV'r, avoid Sunday through Wednesday, but especially Sunday, when the day riders come out from Anchorage.

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