CHUGACH NATIONAL FOREST

Photo credit: Mladen Mates

WHY TO LOVE THIS PLACE

The Chugach National Forest located in south central Alaska is our nation’s second largest forest and the most northern of all of America’s national forests. Covering approximately 5.4 million acres in Anchorage’s “backyard,” the Chugach stretches from from the salty waters and snowy peaks of Prince William Sound to the salmon and trout streams of the Kenai Peninsula. It is truly a wild forest, approximately the size of the state of New Hampshire yet containing just 90 miles of Forest Service roads. Its three distinct landscapes — the Copper River Delta, Eastern Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound — attract adventurers and nature lovers from around the world, receiving more than a million visitors each year.

With three distinct landscapes, visiting the Chugach is means experiencing three unique recreation areas in one. They include: the Eastern Kenai Peninsula, a hiker’s paradise that offers hundreds of miles of maintained trails; the Copper River Delta, America’s largest contiguous wetlands and one of the most essential bird habitats in the world; and Prince William Sound, home to the 2.1 million acre Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area.

LOCATION

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WILDLIFE

Coyote, timber wolf, moose, caribou, marten, Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goat, black bears, brown bears and five species of Pacific salmon (king, red, silver, chum and pink) are found here. The number of bald eagles in Prince William Sound equals the total number found in the lower-48.

WATER WORLD

Thirty percent of the Chugach is covered in ice, with 20 tidewater glaciers located in Prince William Sound. The Chugach contains 96 separate watersheds, and there are 1800 miles of anadromous streams and 48,100 acreas of documented anadromous fish lakes.

WETLANDS

The Copper River Delta stretches across 700,000 acres, draining a watershed of 26,500 square miles — about the size of West Virginia — making it one of the most essential shorebird habitats in the world.

FOREST SIZE

The Chugach National Forest covers approximately 5.5 million acres, and contains the roughly 2-million acre Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area (WSA). The Nellie Juan-College Fjord WSA was designation in 1980 and is managed consistent with the 1964 Wilderness Act.

EXPLORE!

Enjoy a hiker’s paradise with 41 public use cabins and more than 500 miles of trails. Or head to the water and hop in a kayak, small boat, ferry or float plane and explore Prince William Sound's 3,500 miles of coastline.

HOW WE'RE HELPING THE CHUGACH

Because the Chugach is Anchorage's large outdoor playground, it's heavily used by all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts — approximately 500,000 people visit the Chugach for recreation each year alone! The League works to maintain the wild elements of the Chugach so that it can be enjoyed in a natural state for years to come.

PEOPLE AND THE CHUGACH

More than 1 million people visit the Chugach annually from all over the world; however, it is local Alaskans — especially in and around Anchorage — who really utilize what the Chugach has to offer. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Chugach serves as the “backyard” for half of Alaska’s residents.

Beyond recreation, the Chugach is a place where residents come to hunt, fish and gather as part of a subsistence lifestyle. The Chugach is a place Alaska residents hold near and dear to their hearts — Alaskans love the Chugach!

Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

FEATURED ANIMAL: BALD EAGLE

Average life span: 28 years in the wild

Body length: 28 to 40 inches

Wingspan: 6 to 8 feet

Weight: 6.5 to 14 lbs.

Larger in Alaska: You might not know, but female eagles are typically about 25% larger than their male counterparts, averaging 12 pounds to the smaller male average of nine pounds. Less surprising is that the largest eagles are found in Alaska, where a large female may weigh up to 17 lbs. and sport a wingspan eight feet across. The bald eagle is the only “sea eagle” endemic to North America; the Tongass houses the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world, while more eagles call the Chugach home than the entire Lower 48.

Supersized Nests: Bald eagles are believed to mate for life, and tend to a pair of eggs each year. Combine that with the sheer size of the birds, and it shouldn’t be surprising that bald eagle nests are some of the largest in the world. The largest ever recorded was measured at nearly 10 feet wide and 20 feet deep! Such large nests require suitably large trees, which is why the towering old-growth trees of the Chugach and the Tongass are so vital to the species.

Photo Credit: Ramachandra Srivatsa, Flickr Creative Commons