The Chena Lake Recreation Area is a 2,000-acre park 17 miles southeast of Fairbanks and three miles from North Pole. Spruce, tamarack and birch forest, open land, marshes and sloughs provide a variety of habitats that serve an abundance of wildlife. The area includes a 260-acre lake and four winding miles of the Chena River. Chum and king salmon swim nearly 1,000 miles from the Bering Sea to spawn here in the Chena and in July and August the big fish are easy to observe in the clear waters.
The recreation area borders the Moose Creek Dike, a seven-mile long, 50-foot-high barrier that protects Fairbanks from periodic flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers administers about 20,000 acres of public land east of the dike and adjoining the recreation area, fertile habitat for wildlife. Where the dike meets the river, the Moose Creek Dam offers a panoramic vista of the area, a visitor information kiosk and a fish-viewing overlook with a "salmon watch" program active in July and August. An area day-use fee is collected Memorial Day through Labor Day, but fish viewing from the dam is free.
Developed recreation facilities include the Lake Park campground, picnic areas, playground, bike paths, restrooms, boat launch and a swimming beach at the lake. The River Park campground has a self-guided nature trail and a network of walking/skiing paths for a more nature-oriented experience. A boat ramp provides river access.
Wildlife Viewing and Safety Tips
Ospreys hunt over the river while dippers, kingfishers, shorebirds and swallows favor the water's edge. Watch the forest edges near the river and the open flood plain and fields for northern harriers, kestrels, rough-legged and sharp-shinned hawks. Muskrat, otter and mink share the riparian (streamside) areas with beaver and a variety of waterfowl. Woodpeckers, songbirds and grouse nest and forage in the woods. Mice, voles, hares and squirrels are preyed upon by lynx, red fox, coyotes and weasels. Wolves are present and occasionally seen, as are black and grizzly bears. Moose are common.
Winter is also a good time for wildlife viewing, and the snow provides excellent tracking opportunities here. Skiers and dog mushers enjoy area trails. Hunting, fishing and trapping are popular in season.
Free hospitality passes are available for senior citizens and the handicapped upon request. The area has a handicap accessible fishing dock.
Take the Richardson Highway out of Fairbanks and turn left on Laurence Road as you leave North Pole. The road follows the dike and passes through an entrance station.
For information regarding fees, camping, boat rentals and operation of the recreation area, call the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation office at (907) 459-1070 or visit http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/parksandrecreation/facilities/clra/clra.htm
The Army Corps of Engineers offers information at http://www.poa.usace.army.mil/Locations/ChenaProject.aspx