Photo Credit: Janet Kotwas

Alaska Boat Launches & Harbors

Alaska features scores of boat launching sites and ramps, offering access to more navigable lakes, streams and ocean coastline than all of the other states combined. They range from high-capacity, fee-based facilities inside harbors and ports, to state park ramps aimed at vessels on trailers, to totally unmaintained dirt slopes that anglers and hunters have pioneered next to river bridges or along a shore.

They are managed many different public agencies and a few private entrepreneurs. No official, comprehensive directory exists. Outside of core recreation areas, the ramps may not always be located in the most convenient or sensible spots. But with some flexibility and a little research, you can almost always find a usable launch site for navigable water near your destination.

Quick Tips

  • Launching into the ocean? Check first with the small boat harbor or launch site in the community nearest to your boating destination.
  • Launching into a lake? Park and recreation sites adjacent to the shore will often be your best bet.
  • Launching into a river? While parks and recreation sites will often feature well-appointed launch sites (the Kenai River corridor has many examples,) Alaskans regularly pioneer their own launch ramps, both for trailered boats and paddling craft. If you know what you’re doing, don’t hesitate to check pullouts beside highway bridges for access options.

For More Information

Here are several links to boat ramp lists. They have been posted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to help anglers and hunters figure out access to fishing and hunting, often in less-traveled areas in the Interior. Scan these as an additional resource to find launch sites along your itinerary.

Show Map

Boat Launches & Harbors by Destination

Anchorage

Most launch sites inside Anchorage are aimed at hand-carried or non-motorized boats for paddlers in municipal and state parks. But a few give access to big water.

Want to let the kids romp on a beach beneath a mil­lion-dol­lar view of mile-high peaks? Pad­dle a pris­tine lake? Tucked into the woods at the north­ern foot of Eklut­na Lake in Chugach State Park, this camp­ground offers fam­i­lies unique access to a moun­tain wilder­ness val­ley laced with inter­est­ing fea­tures and 25-mile net­work of mul­ti-use trails.

Class II Pack­raft­ing River. 

Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula features many boat launching sites, including the navigable waterway formed by Kenai River and Kenai Lake, plus scores of lakes and creeks spread all over and at least four communities with harbors.

If you want to camp beside sub­alpine Upper Sum­mit Lake close to trum­peter swans and fish­ing for rain­bows, take the fam­i­ly to this camp­ground deep in the Kenai Moun­tains off Mile 46 of the Seward High­way. The 35 sites are spread along a loop in the alder, wil­low and spruce woods on the hill­side above the lake, with clear-run­ning Ten­der­foot Creek pass­ing through 

Estab­lished in 1964, Seward’s Small Boat Har­bor is locat­ed on the north­ern edge of Res­ur­rec­tion Bay, which mul­ti­ple pub­li­ca­tions have ranked as one of the top sail­ing des­ti­na­tions in the Unit­ed States. From the har­bor you’ll find easy access to Exit Glac­i­er, Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park, fish­ing, kayak­ing, camp­ing, flight-see­ing, and an assort­ment of oth­er activ­i­ties. Seward plays host to a vari­ety of ves­sels that make up the com­mer­cial fishing…  ...more

RV park & camp­ground, kayak­ing, and fish­ing char­ters in Seward, Alaska

This is a take out for the upper riv­er or a put in for the mid­dle and/​or low­er river.

Check out this salmon-friend­ly habi­tat and learn why so many salmon spawn here annually. 

This park is the con­flu­ence of the Kenai and Moose Rivers. Take a break at this recre­ation site named for the Eng­lish author Iza­ak Wal­ton who wrote The Com­pleat Angler. Look for the infor­ma­tion­al sign to learn about the Moose Riv­er Archae­o­log­i­cal Site. You will also find a host­ed camp­ground and boat launch. There’s excel­lent fly-fish­ing in this area.

This is a pop­u­lar boat launch for drift boaters fish­ing for king salmon. The Kasilof Riv­er red salmon dip­net fish­ery is here, but only open to Alas­ka res­i­dents. It’s worth a look if you’ve nev­er seen dip­net­ters in action before. There are 16 camp­sites, water, tables, toi­lets, hik­ing trails, a boat launch and fishing.

Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound has limited direct access from the road system. Boaters must launch from harbor ramps in Whittier, Valdez or Cordova (itself cut off from the highway system and accessible only by ferry or air.)

Southeast Alaska

The Panhandle of Alaska is a mariner’s paradise, with almost every community dominated by ocean activities and sea access. All but Haines, Skagway and Hyder are cut off from the road system and can only be reached by ferry or air.

From the boat ramp park­ing lot, walk along the dri­ve­way to Sen­a­tor Gruening’s home. The path ends where Peter­son creek cas­cades down into Lynn Canal. It’s an amaz­ing place for wildlife view­ing when the salmon are running.

Out the Road” ends at Echo Cove. You’ll see only a boat ramp and some out­hous­es, but walk about a mile down the beach and you’ll come upon the beau­ti­ful view of Berner’s Bay, Lion’s Head Moun­tain, and pos­si­bly a whale or 20. You like­ly won’t be alone, though; this is a pop­u­lar spot for ATVs, so be pre­pared for their noise. It’s also a pop­u­lar spot for kayak­ing, as Echo Cove offers great access to Berner’s Bay. But the cove is nar­row, shallow,…  ...more

Susitna River Valley

The big Susitna River and its tributaries, several popular recreation lakes are found in the Wasilla-Willow area and challenging glacial fed rivers to the north.

Overview The Tal­keet­na Riv­er is, accord­ing to almost every guide­book or ref­er­ence you may con­sult, the most clas­sic, wilder­ness, white­wa­ter trip in Alas­ka. Its remote loca­tion, steep, fast-water canyon, abun­dant fish­ing and wildlife view­ing make it one of the true clas­sics for sure. It requires a bush plane to fly into the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains where there are huge views of the high­est peak in North Amer­i­ca, Denali, and in the head­wa­ters area…  ...more

Sur­prise! This bridge over the Susit­na Riv­er appears with­out warn­ing, so if you want to stop and see this huge drainage, slow down and pull off the road at either end. Alaskans call it the Big Su. We fish it, pad­dle it, and snow machine its frozen braids. Bush pilots even nav­i­gate by this riv­er. The Susit­na Riv­er winds its way over 313 miles of South­cen­tral Alas­ka; this old rail­road bridge cross­es the water on the east­ern edge of Denali…  ...more

Matanuska River Valley

The Matanuska Valley reaches from the Knik River and Palmer area along the braided, roiling river into spectacular mountain terrain. Many road-accessible lakes feature gravel ramps for small boats.

There are 10 sites here, good for RVs or tents. They all over­look the lake, which is open to canoes and kayaks. You can rent a boat here, or moun­tain bike/​hike the trails, which con­nect to the Matanus­ka Green­belt system.

Overview With the Tal­keet­na Moun­tains to the north and the Chugach Moun­tains to the south, the Matanus­ka Riv­er pours forth from the large Matanus­ka Glac­i­er in a swift, freez­ing cold, tor­rent of Class II to Class IV white­wa­ter for near­ly 70 miles before it meets the sea where the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet reach­es into the inte­ri­or. The riv­er runs down the trench formed where the Bor­der Ranges Fault line sep­a­rates the two mighty moun­tain ranges,…  ...more

Copper River Valley

The Copper River basin is dominated by its namesake river and features several lakes, including the extensive Lake Louise-Susitna lake system.

Overview This inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of rivers and lake is a rarely done cir­cuit that would be a great mul­ti-day wilder­ness float trip for kayaks and rafts. With good fish­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and only Class III at times, it is most­ly a Class II trip and for 80 miles it trav­els through an amaz­ing land­scape. The Nelchi­na Riv­er sys­tem is a rocky glacial riv­er with dai­ly water lev­el fluc­tu­a­tions amid a forest­ed val­ley and with spec­tac­u­lar views of…  ...more

If you’re not head­ing right back to Anchor­age, here’s anoth­er great side trip. A scenic 19-mile dri­ve north takes you into the park. Lake Louise is known for its trout and grayling fish­ing, views of Tazli­na Glac­i­er and Lake, and berry pick­ing — har­vest wild straw­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries in July and August, or cran­ber­ries come September. 

This swift, glacial­ly-fed riv­er deliv­ers one of the top sports salmon fish­eries in the Cop­per Basin, with pro­duc­tive bank­side fish­ing for famed Cop­per Riv­er reds and decent oppor­tu­ni­ties to land a big king salmon. You’ll find good park­ing and direct access to pub­lic ease­ments along the riv­er in Cop­per Cen­ter. Many pro­fes­sion­al guides also oper­ate in the community.

Gulkana River

A tributary of the roiling Copper River, the Gulkana is beloved for its clear-running water and salmon fishing. It is much less challenging to float or boat than most other Copper River tributaries.

The Gulka­na Riv­er is an approx­i­mate­ly 80-mile long riv­er that can be done in 5 to 7 aver­age length days. It is a Nation­al Wild and Scenic Riv­er and one of Alaska’s most pop­u­lar white­wa­ter riv­er trips. It is an excel­lent fish­ing riv­er trip, as well, with a large King Salmon run and lots of small­er sport fish to try for. The first three miles are, gen­er­al­ly, Class II with 4 mph cur­rent and some Class III. The next 13 to 15 miles to canyon…  ...more

Interior Alaska & Fairbanks

The Interior road system—with Fairbanks at its hub—fans out north of the Alaska Range with direct access to dozens of fishing lakes and river systems. Most water bodies that draw anglers and hunters will feature a ramp to launch a boat.

Camp­ground with 15 sites, fire spits, pic­nic tables and shel­ter and toi­lets. There’s a boat launch for boat­ing, water ski­ing, and swim­ming. This is a pop­u­lar bush plane land­ing location.

You are now enter­ing the 397-square mile Chena Riv­er State Recre­ation Area. Here you’ll find activ­i­ties year round from hik­ing, rock climb­ing, and berry pick­ing to dog sled­ding and cross-coun­try ski­ing. Main­tained and well-marked trails lead into alpine coun­try and access very dif­fer­ent hik­ing expe­ri­ences. Once above tree­line, small­er trails lead away from the main, devel­oped trails to reach even more remote areas, many with unobstructed…  ...more

The com­mon put in is on the Tan­gle Lakes sys­tem along the Denali High­way at mile 21, just west of Pax­son. There is a boat launch at the Tan­gle Lakes camp­ground from where you can start.

The Delta Riv­er, includ­ing Tan­gle Lakes to mile 212 on the Richard­son High­way, is an out­stand­ing riv­er to float, although there is a set of falls to portage around. It offers a vari­ety of water chal­lenges: qui­et lake, fast and rocky Class I to the falls, good Class II rapids fol­low­ing the falls, Class I mean­der­ing water to Eure­ka Creek, and fast glacial water to the take­out 7 miles below Eure­ka Creek. The scenery is superb with canyon,…  ...more