You made it to Alaska! There’s so much to do and so much to see, where do you start? The tourist trap activities and fun but you want the real experience. We’re here to help show you places to see Alaskans being Alaskan.
- Kenai River Dipnetting: Every year, for the last two weeks of July, the mouth of the Kenai River turns into a zoo of humans and salmon. They’re here for dipnetting season, an opportunity for Alaska residents (only) to catch dozens of fish and feed their families through the winter. Visitors are fascinated by dipnetting, there are so many salmon that we (and hundreds of other people) can simply hold a net in the water and fish will swim right into it.
- Clam Digging: During the Alaskan summers if there’s a minus tide, residents and tourists flock to the beaches on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula. They come in search of razor clams, a tasty delicacy. Popular beaches for clam digging are Clam Gulch, Ninilchik, and Deep Creek. Our favorites are Ninilchik and Deep Creek. If you see hundreds of people aimlessly walking around the beach with their heads down, these are clam diggers not zombies! Please don’t shoot them in the head! They’re looking for the “show,” a dimple or hole in the sand marking the location of a clam. The devices they’re carrying are either clam guns or clam shovels for digging up the clams. Here’s a clamming video I made from a trip to Polly Creek, which is boat ride across Cook Inlet from Deep Creek. Check the fishing regulations before you go digging, as the rules change frequently.
- Copper River Dipnetting and Fish Wheels: Near Wrangell St Elias National Park is the mighty Copper River and the small town of Chitina. Every summer you will find Alaska residents (only) dipnetting and operating fish wheels. Both are subsistence programs to help people feed their families. Dipnetting can be viewed from O’Brien Creek outside Chitina and fish wheels can be viewed from the Copper River Bridge. Since you’re here consider taking the 60 mile trip to the Kennecott Mine, a great piece of Alaska’s history.
- Knik Public Use Area: Located in Palmer, the Knik River PUA is a huge playground for fishing in Jim Creek, ATV’ing, and boating. Tours are available through local operators. We enjoy camping in the river bed where the Old Glenn crosses the Knik River. From here it’s an amazing 25 mile ATV ride to Knik Glacier.
- Caribou Hunting: Every year, thousands of Alaska residents (only) are issued tags to hunt for caribou in Unit 13. The best place to see the caribou hunt is the Denali Highway from mid-August – September 20. We prefer the eastern half, aka the Paxson side. The first 20 miles are paved and puts you at Tangle Lakes. There’s a lodge with a restaurant, WiFi and a nice BLM campground here. From here you can set up a base camp and do day trips or go further down the highway and camp in one of the many pull-outs. You’ll meet people from across the state trying to harvest a caribou for their families. There’s awesome grayling fishing at Tangle Lakes and blue berry picking everywhere. Please give hunters their space, don’t intrude on a stalk.
Honorable Mention (These events would top our list if more folks RV’ed in the winter)
- Fur Rondy: Started in the mid 1930’s when miners and trappers would return to town (Anchorage) with their yield. It’s since boomed into a 10 day winter festival including dozens of events from; outhouse races to running with the reindeer, and peaks with the start of the Iditarod.
- Arctic Man: Alaska’s version of a Spring Break party zone. In Alaska April still looks like winter and instead of water skiing we have skiers being towed by snow machines.
- Alaska State Fair: You’re standard state fair with an Alaskan twist. It’s a little too crowded for my tastes but worth visiting. We went there on our first year in Alaska and haven’t gone back since.
Do you notice a pattern here? We’re always trying to get food for the winter! We hope you enjoy these opportunities to view a little bit of the real Alaska.
Please feel free to add some of your favorite sights in the comments below.