May 15, 2012
Where can you find a world class salmon stream six blocks from a thriving city’s downtown? Put on your hiking shoes in Anchorage, Alaska, between mid-May and mid-October and head for Ship Creek. If you want to fish for king or silver salmon, rentals along the creek will set you up with gear. But walking from the Ship Creek Overlook Park to the Anchorage Small Boat Harbor Park lets you enjoy the action without having to figure out how you’re going to get that salmon converted from a splashing thrashing fish into smoked filets.
Allow at least an hour for the two-mile roundtrip walk that starts at the Ship Creek Overlook Park (302 East Whitney Road), across the creek from the Comfort Inn at 111 Ship Creek Avenue.
Walk on trails on either side of the creek (the south side is better maintained and safer) to the Bridge Seafood Company. If you’ve been using the narrower trail on the north side of the creek, cross on the bridge here to the south side because the trail ends and you would have to walk on a narrow shoulder of Whitney Road, keeping company with the semi-trailers. This is Anchorage’s busiest industrial area, with the railroad and the port facilities hosting dozens of semi-trailers and trains. Train whistles, rumbling trucks, screeching gulls mix with the breeze whispers and lapping waves. In the spring the spice of cottonwoods and birches mixes with saltwater scents.
The trail crosses North C Street – watch traffic. Continue on the other side along the unpaved trail above the creek banks, and walk under the railroad bridge where the trail may be a little muddy because you’re walking on the clay that forms the creek’s banks. Climb up the bank to Western Drive, and walk along the road’s shoulder about one-third of a mile. Keep an eye out for ducks, Canada geese, Arctic Terns, bald eagles, and gulls.
At the small park beside the boat launching ramp, stand with your back to the city and the water and wilderness spread out in front of you, with little in the way of civilization between Cook Inlet and Fairbanks. Tugboats pull barges to sea on the outgoing tides; fighter jets and cargo carriers swoop in to land at Elmendorf Air Force base north of the port; planes take off from Anchorage International Airport to the west. Mountains shape the horizon with active volcanoes, Mt. Susitna, and the Alaska Range, the Talkeetnas, and the Chugach Mountains.
Go back along Western Drive to Ocean Dock Road, and up the hill to downtown Anchorage where dozens of restaurants and bars provide a full range of eating and drinking – including fresh Alaska salmon that you didn’t have to catch yourself.