Captain Cook State Recreation Area has it all.
From boating and swimming to beach combing and wildlife viewing, this little-known park at the end of the Kenai Spur Highway offers a perfect opportunity to get out into the Alaska wilderness without venturing too far from the amenities of town.
Named for James Cook, an English mariner who explored the inlet in 1778, the 3,500-acre park opened in the 1970s.
The park boundaries, which start at Mile 35.5 of the Spur Highway, encompass saltwater beaches along the shores of Cook Inlet, freshwater boating, fishing and swimming on Stormy Lake, and the 51-site Discovery Campground at the end of the paved road. There also are picnic facilities at Stormy Lake, Bishop Creek and Discovery Campground, and the area provides ample wildlife viewing.
Stormy Lake has both a swimming beach and boat launch. Canoeists can access the Swanson River Canoe Trails in the adjacent Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Bishop Creek, now a day-use area due to bear concerns, offers a quarter-mile trail to the beach. From the rock and sand shores, Mount McKinley can be seen to the north on clear days.
Discovery Campground offers sites for tents and self-contained RVs. The campground provides dry pit latrines and water but no electrical hook-ups. Camping is $10 per night and available on a first come-first serve basis.
The Yurick Nature Trail rings the campground with interpretive displays identifying wildflowers. Part of the trail overlooks the inlet.
There is no service for cellular phones in the park except at certain points along the bluff. This includes boat and canoe launch areas.
Rules to follow while in the park:
All fires must be either in the fire pits provided, on saltwater beaches or confined to a camp stove.
All-terrain vehicles are allowed only in designated areas, from the end of the paved road to the beach. Snowmachines are allowed where the snow depth is sufficient to protect vegetation.
Horses are not allowed in any of the picnic or camping areas.
Motor vehicles are restricted to roads and parking lots to avoid destruction of vegetation and wildlife habitat.
Use of firearms, fireworks and explosives is not allowed anywhere in the park, including beaches.
Destruction of vegetation and cutting or removing bark from green trees is not allowed.
All food, including pet food, should be kept in sealed containers even when using day-use areas.
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