Chilkat State Park is a state park of the U.S. state of Alaska, located in Haines Borough at the northern end of the Inside Passage on the west side of the Chilkoot Inlet between the Kachemak Bay and Lake Bennett. The park has many amenities for various activities, including hiking trails, boat launch, beachcombing areas, wildlife viewing, and interpretive displays about area history and culture.
There are also cabins available to rent. A major feature of the park is the large group camping facility which can accommodate up to 100 people in bunk beds or full-service tent sites. Other campgrounds nearby include those at Copper Center State Recreation Site, Haines State Parksite, and Wells Fargo Campground.
With more than 200 campsites, the park offers excellent RV hookups as well as tent sites with water and electric hookups. The campground includes modern restrooms and showers, a trailer dump station, and a sanitary dumping station for human waste. The park provides flush toilets and hot showers at its headquarters and several other locations. Visitors can hike along seven miles of trail, mountain bike along ten miles of dedicated bike route, go horseback riding along four miles of trail, and fish for king salmon, coho, chum, and steelhead in the inlets surrounding the park.
Boats may be launched into Lake Bennettsworth to the south of the park, where there is ample room for all boats to pass each other. To the north of the park, there are three separate beaches open for swimming. One is near the mouth of the Kachemak Bay, another near Point Hope, and a third on the inland side of Highway 101 across from the airport.
The park store sells fuel, food, bait, and ice, among other items. Interpretive displays can be found throughout the park depicting different aspects of native life and history. For example, a totem pole donated by the Tlingit tribe stands outside the community center. Inside the community center, mounted animals, historical photos, and cultural artifacts help tell the story of the Haines area and the Tlingits who inhabited it.
Programs and special events are held throughout the year, including traditional ground blessing ceremonies performed by local Native Americans every summer. The park hosts an annual opening day ceremony each fall to welcome visitors to the park. The campground opens the second Friday in April and closes in mid-October. Reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. Advance campsite reservations can also be booked through Reservation America. Group campsites are available by reservation. Backcountry sites can be reserved directly with the park office. Walk-in sites typically become available the third week of July. Each site has firewood and picnic table available for use.
No pets are allowed in the campground. Horses allowed in the campground have to be kept under control at all times. They cannot run off the roadways or disturb the wildlife. The roads themselves are not paved so motorized vehicles are prohibited. Non-motorized boats such as rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats are very common sights in the inlets bordering the park.
Some 250 birdwatchers converge annually upon the park to participate in the Audubon Society’s Important Bird Areas program, focusing on both spotted sandpipers and ring-necked ducks. The park is accessible via the Haines Highway, which intersects Interstate 75 at exit 261. This intersection is referred to locally as the “I-75 interchange”, although signage at the junction inaccurately refers to it as the “Haines Interchange”. The park entrance is just past mile marker 262 on the Haines Highway.
Entrance fees are waived for those traveling less than 26 miles (42km) beyond the border of the park. Daily vehicle access is unlimited. Annual passes are offered. Camping costs are based on a per night stay. The campground has 200 driveup sites, 60 walk-in sites, and 10 primitive backcountry sites. Modern restroom facilities with hot showers are provided at the campground.
Groundbreaking for the park was held on May 9, 1970, and construction began two years later. Dedicated by Governor Bill Egan on June 22, 1972, it became the first state park unit within the new Haines State Park system. It originally included only one site, but additional sites were added in 1975 with funding provided by an act of Congress passed that year allowing states to set aside land for public use without having to pay property taxes. The park’s initial development was undertaken through federal grant programs. $4 million of a $6 million grant from the Economic Development Administration went toward building the main campground, bathhouse, and other facilities in 1973; an additional $2 million came from the Department of the Interior. Additional money was received from selling oil and gas leases around the park.
- cross-country skiing
- rainbow trout
- sockeye salmon
- Dolly Varden trout
These fish can be caught using anglers’ normal techniques, though they are rarely seen in these waters due to their deep drop down below the surface. Instead, the park’s lake features a variety of underwater hazards, including rock piles, ledges, and pinnacles, making it a popular destination for scuba divers.
On occasion, humpback and orca pod sightings occur, though these are rare.
Mammals observed at the park include:
- black bears
- river otters
- cottontail rabbits
- snowshoe hares
Birds commonly sighted include:
- bald eagles
- trumpeter swans
- double-crested cormorants
- boreal owls
- red-winged blackbirds
- snowy white pelicans