Since our immediate coastline lacks exciting surf and easy recreational boating, Anchorage families might sometimes forget we live beside the Pacific Ocean. But a long, safe and very walkable sandy beach stretches along Anchorage’s southwest coast at Point Campbell in Kincaid Park. The area offers families an intimate look at some of the highest tides in the world along with stunning views of vast mudflats and snowy mountains.
It’s a beachcombing delight
Kids can run and throw stones into the water, or explore the sometimes elaborate tipi-like shelters built from driftwood. Many families picnic and build campfires in fine weather. During those rare hot summer days, gobs of people converge with beach towels, and some actually wade in the shallows immediately off the beach.
Even when temperatures (and winds) are more brisk, people love to walk or jog the shore extending miles to the southeast deeper into the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. At low tide, the flats seem to reach forever. It may be the best place in the region to experience Cook Inlet up close.
Ice boulders of February
Winter delivers is own a weird charm. During frigid weather, the rise and fall of the tide litters the beach with ice-and-silt boulders known as stamukhas. They can grow as large as automobiles, with hundreds of them stranded all over the place. Inspect them for their bizarre shapes, similar to icebergs. Listen to them drip.
You won’t run out of things to do at the Kincaid Beach:
- Watch for wildlife. The beach is inside the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, which runs for 16 miles from Point Woronzof to Potter Marsh. Beluga whales and harbor seals can be spotted during higher tides. Moose are common, and bears sometimes meander through. Some 130 species of birds breed or visit the area — ducks, geese, bald eagles and migrants. Watch for swallows diving from nests in the bluffs. Humpback whales have died and stranded here too.
- Beachcomb. Upper Cook Inlet may not leave much flotsam at high tide, but you can still find bleached driftwood and interesting debris. Look for the tiny shells of Turnagain Arm’s native clam, the Baltic macoma, a dietary staple for shorebirds, to the southeast.
- Bike or walk the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This paved trail extends north from the beach access for more than 10 miles, ultimately connecting to downtown Anchorage and the Chester Creek trail system. Many overlooks and benches along the way.
- Do part of the Planet Walk. A scale model of the solar system is aligned along the Coastal Trail, with 10 stations representing the Sun, eight planets and Pluto. From the beach access, Neptune can be found about two miles north, with Pluto back up at the Chalet. (The Sun is downtown at the corner of 5th and G.)
- Just play. It’s a beach! Dig in the sand and build castles. Skip stones at high tide. Dash along the shore and toss a disc. Wade in the chilly waters of Cook Inlet on a blazing hot summer day.
A cautionary note:
- The mudflats can be dangerous. People have gotten stuck or trapped by rising tides, with at least one known fatality between the Kincaid beach and Fire Island. In general, stay close to shore on the sand, the vegetated mud or on rocky sections. Avoid the gooey guts. Don’t venture too far out.