Crescent River, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Crescent River, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

by | Jan 26, 2023

Crescent River is formed by the junction of the North Fork and Lake Fork tributaries, that start in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and flows southeast for 12 miles (19 km) to the northern shore of Tuxedni Bay near the entrance on the western coast of Cook Inlet, about 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Homer and 51 miles (82 km) southwest of Kenai, Alaska. The local name was first reported in 1958 by the U.S. Geological Survey and is taken from Crescent Lake which lies along Lake Creek. Lake Creek starts from an unnamed glacier at an elevation of about 5,000 feet (1,524 m) on the southeastern flank of the Chigmit Mountains and flows 9 miles (14.5 km) to Crescent Lake, which is about 6 miles (10 km) long, and then another 4 miles (6.4 km) to Crescent River.

The entire Crescent River watershed lies within Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Public lands include Crescent Lake, the headwaters above the lake, and the upper portion of the North Fork. The Crescent River system contains all five species of Pacific salmon, sockeye salmon being the most important to the Cook Inlet commercial salmon industry. Sport fishermen also target the fish, and local rural residents use the rivers as a traditional subsistence fishery. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has maintained a sonar fish counter on the river since 1979 and sockeye counts have ranged from about 20,000 to about 200,000 fish per year. Crescent River sockeye are managed under a biological escapement goal of 30,000 to 70,000 fish. Most of the salmon travel up the Lake Fork into Crescent Lake and spawn along its shores and tributaries.

Cook Inlet Region Incorporated and three Alaska Native village corporations own large tracts of inholdings in the watershed along the North Fork and between Crescent Lake and Cook Inlet. Timber rights to approximately 42,000 acres (16,997 ha) of the lower Crescent River watershed were sold to a logging company in 1997. From 1998-1999, the timber company built a primary access road, airstrip, and log transfer facility, including a causeway extending 550 feet (168 m) into Tuxedni Bay. Secondary roads were built to harvest timber on the west side of the river and between 2000-2001 about 700 acres (283 ha) were logged. The enabling legislation for Lake Clark National Park and Preserve included the responsibility to maintain the sockeye salmon habitat and protect the pristine quality of lakes and rivers within the park. If logging resumed at the planned scale, the harvest operations could pose an imminent threat to the water quality and fish habitat of the Crescent River watershed. Read more here and here. Explore more of Crescent River here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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