The Best Salmon Viewing Spots in Anchorage

All five species of Pacific salmon converge on Anchorage streams each summer, sometimes in spectacular numbers. And they’re easy to view—whether you seek feisty chinooks as long as human’s arm in spring, or dense congregations of humpies during the summer peak, or the last, lingering cohos after the first frost.

Some of the best viewing spots are right in the urban area with easy access to overlooks. Others are short drives from town, especially along Turnagain Arm.

  • Ship Creek Dam. For glimpses of the big king or Chinook salmon right inside the city’s industrial heart, check out the hatchery-seeded run at Ship Creek from late May into August. Some of the best viewing can be found in the clear water at the spillway and fish ladders at the Ship Creek Overlook Park off East Whitney Road, in the railroad and warehouse basin north of downtown.
  • William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery. For both indoor and outdoor viewing of big kings (plus cohos in August), go two miles upstream to the William Jack Hernandez Sports Fish Hatchery, at the corner of Post Road and Reeve Boulevard, and take the self-guided tour.
  • Potter Marsh. Multiple species swirl beneath the boardwalks at Potter Marsh in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge in South Anchorage. For best fish viewing, take the right-hand (highway oriented) boardwalk to where it crosses Rabbit Creek. By midsummer, you might see Chinook, coho and humpback salmon swirling in the same pool.
  • Indian Creek. To experience the classic coastal pink salmon run—sometimes with hundreds of fish practically jamming the stream—check out Indian Creek about 24 miles south along the Seward Highway in August. It’s intimate and fascinating!
  • Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform. Crystal-clear Williwaw Creek and its bank-side trail system in Portage Valley at the head of Turnagain Arm offers exceptionally good conditions for watching spawning in action. Coho, sockeye and chum salmon converge on the creek as it winds through the brushy flats beginning in mid-August, with some late-arriving fish still present after first frost in the fall.

For much more detail, check out detailed run-timing charts by region posted by state biologists or’s primer on Best Time to Fish.

A quick cheat sheet for salmon lovers:

  • Chinooks—mid-May to early July.
  • Sockeyes—June to July
  • Chums—late July to August
  • Humpies—July to August
  • Cohos—July to October

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Salmon Viewing Spots

Here you’ll find one of the most acces­si­ble wildlife view­ing areas in Alas­ka. The marsh is a rest area for migra­to­ry birds includ­ing trum­peter swans, red­necked grebes, gold­en eyes, and pin­tails. Also watch for beavers, moose and bald eagles. You may even spot salmon spawn­ing in the deep­er water.

If you want to mar­vel at the sight of thou­sands of fish school­ing in gigan­tic tanks, take the self-guid­ed tour inside the state fish hatch­ery on the banks of Ship Creek east of down­town. The muse­um-qual­i­ty obser­va­tion deck offers inti­mate views of a com­plex oper­a­tion that pro­duces up to six mil­lion sport fish each year.

Crys­tal-clear Willi­waw Creek and its bank-side trail sys­tem in Portage Val­ley at the head of Tur­na­gain Arm offers excep­tion­al­ly good con­di­tions for watch­ing spawn­ing in action. Coho, sock­eye and chum salmon con­verge on the creek as it winds through the brushy flats begin­ning in mid-August, with some late-arriv­ing fish still present after first frost in the fall.

Thou­sands of pink salmon con­verge on Indi­an Creek each July and August, just about fill­ing this shal­low, easy-flow­ing stream south of Anchor­age along Tur­na­gain Arm from bank-to-bank. This amaz­ing nat­ur­al spec­ta­cle occurs in one of the eas­i­est places to view spawn­ing salmon in the region: No steep banks, crys­tal clear water and fish so close they could almost be touched.

For glimpses of the big Chi­nook salmon right inside the city’s indus­tri­al heart, check out the hatch­ery-seed­ed run at Ship Creek between late May into June. Hatch­ery-seed­ed coho salmon begin run­ning through the same waters in late July through August.

Vis­i­ble out­side the win­dows of the Mat-Su Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bureau, this state wildlife refuge is the result of the 1964 earth­quake. Lit­er­al­ly overnight, the land dropped by 6 to 20 feet; hay fields and pas­ture­land became salt flats and marsh­land. Once home to cows and grains, the land is now prime habi­tat for moose, birds, and fish. Some 20,000 acres are pro­tect­ed in the refuge, which is a pop­u­lar recre­ation and wildlife-viewing…  ...more

This 64.3 acre park has lots to offer with open fields, ski­jor­ing trails, a sled­ding hill, one soc­cer field, fish­ing dur­ing des­ig­nat­ed sea­sons, and a fish view­ing plat­form that is best dur­ing the mid to late summer.

Portage Val­ley south­east of Anchor­age at the head of Tur­na­gain Arm offers so many poten­tial adven­tures that you might have to tow a trail­er loaded with gear to sam­ple them all. What will you find here? Bik­ing, hik­ing, pic­nick­ing, fish­ing, pad­dling, wildlife view­ing, poten­tial ice­berg sight­ings — plus a nat­ur­al his­to­ry vis­i­tor cen­ter packed with inter­ac­tive dis­plays about the ecosys­tem of the val­ley and Prince William Sound. It’s like an outdoor  ...more

The dri­ve from Anchor­age to the sea­side com­mu­ni­ty of Seward begins with two hours of spec­tac­u­lar views as you pass between the dra­mat­ic shore­lines of Tur­na­gain Arm and the jut­ting peaks of the Chugach Mountains.