Park History: Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. NPS Photo.

Though not one of the most remote national parks in Alaska, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve isn't at a loss for rugged and spectacular terrain. Across its 4-million-plus acres you can find plenty of places to achieve solitude.

Dick Proenneke discovered just that in the 1960s, when he headed to Upper Twin Lake in what is now the national park and, with his own hands, built a cabin that still stands today as an historic structure, as well as a symbol of the romanticism that seems to swirl in the minds of those who dream of living self-sufficient in North America's wilds.

It wasn't until this date in 1980 that Lake Clark, and seven other Alaskan parks, were added to the national park system as a result of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Under this legislation, Lake Clark was created to "protect the watershed necessary for perpetuation of the red salmon fishery in Bristol Bay; to maintain unimpaired the scenic beauty and quality of portions of the Alaska Range and the Aleutian Range, including active volcanoes, glaciers, wild rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and alpine meadows in their natural state; and to protect habitat for and populations of fish and wildlife including but not limited to caribou, Dall sheep, brown/grizzly bears, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons."

These days the park is a magnet for hearty souls in search of backcountry hiking, rafting, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing. That said, only about TK folks visit Lake Clark each year. For those souls, getting around Lake Clark usually revolves around bush planes (aka, air taxis) that will ferry you into the park's interior and return at a prearranged time and place to pick you up.

Park officials don't mince words when discussing the opportunities available in the park. They want you to realize how remote and rugged Lake Clark is.


Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a wild part of the world. All camping is primitive, no facilities or designated campsites exist. You should use Leave No Trace guidelines to minimize your impacts. Backcountry permits for camping and hiking are not required, however there are rules and regulations governing one's behavior in all national park areas. Become familiar with them. Resist the urge to take, shape or alter the wilderness around you....

...Lake Clark is exceptionally remote and isolated. Weather can often be uncooperative. Adventures here demand self-sufficiency and advanced backcountry skills. Help is what you bring with you: common sense and skills. Assistance maybe days away. Travelers should also be prepared for the possibility of inclement weather delaying scheduled pick-up, perhaps by several days. See our safety page for more information....

...Lake Clark is a trailless wilderness, and you are free to travel where you like. No trails, no cabins, just you, out there. Trails become travel corridors that congregate people and concentrate their impacts. Traillessness helps to disperse use and its associated impacts. However, spending time in this pristine country requires preparation, self-sufficiency, and backcountry skills...

...A trailless wilderness is all about choices: yours as a traveler and ours as Lake Clark’s wilderness stewards. Where you go .... How you get there from here..... What, if anything, lies ahead for you? These are all unknowns. At the visitor center and over the phone, we are frequently asked: "Show me the trails" or "Tell me where you think I’d like to go". We tactfully resist planning trips for people. Instead we offer traveling tips, suggestions, a planning tool or two and some map resources. Are you willing to explore your own route, correct mistakes in route selection and reap the rewards of self accomplishment or must you follow in the footsteps of others? Frequently these same apprehensive people return saying, " I can’t believe the experience we’ve just had. It was wonderful! Keep it as it is."...