In 1983, the first Alaska marine park opened near Juneau as part of an international system extending from Washington through British Columbia to Alaska.
This system provides boat owners and water enthusiasts access to coastal environments with protected anchorages. The marine park system expanded in 1990 to include seven parks in the Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay area.
Enclosed by mountains and glaciers, and protected from the high seas by barrier islands, Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay represent two of Alaska’s premier recreation areas for water-based activities.
Fjords, bays, coves, lakes, glaciers, mountains and hundreds of islands provide scenic settings for visitors that arrive in kayaks, cruise ships and sailboats.
Adventurers can kayak or cruise through glacial waters and see marine life in these protected state waters.
There are eight state marine parks in the vicinity of the small town of Whittier, the closest being Decision Point, Entry Cove, Surprise Cove and Ziegler Cove. Farther away, within Prince William Sound, are Granite Bay, South Esther Island, Bettles Bay and Horseshoe Bay.
Three state marine parks – Shoup Bay, Sawmill Bay and Jack Bay – surround the city of Valdez, and around the city of Cordova are Canoe Passage, Boswell Bay and Kayak Island.
Located 50 miles southeast of Cordova, the lightly visited Kayak Island preserves the site where the first European, Georg Steller, set foot in Alaska in 1741 as part of the Bering Expedition.
The waters off the coast of Seward are also flush with life and natural wonders with five state marine parks: Thumb Cove, Sandspit Point, Sunny Cove, Driftwood Bay and Safety Cove.
Thumb Cove, only nine miles south of Seward on the east side of Resurrection Bay, showcases Porcupine Glacier which towers above the 720-acre park to provide a dramatic backdrop to Seward’s most popular marine destination.
This region is home to 20 state parks, and the recreational opportunities are vast. Activities in the parks include sports fishing, clamming, island camping, wildlife viewing, kayaking and paddle boarding.
Tour operators are easy to find for guided tours to see calving glaciers and aquatic life.
Located near Whittier is one of the world’s largest fish hatcheries, Wally H. Noerenberg Fish Hatchery, which offers free tours of its facility and surroundings. During the height of the fish run, it’s not uncommon to see black bears scouting for a meal along the beach near the hatchery.