Hiking Campbell Creek Estuary: Anchorage’s newest outdoor space for families

Campbell Creek Estuary in south Anchorage is flush with wildlife and peaceful atmosphere.

We don’t always need miles and miles of trail to take advantage of outdoor time as a family. Anchorage’s Campbell Creek Estuary, located on a coastline near the southwestern fringe of town, is one of those spaces. This wooded section of property is the newest in a collection of efforts to protect, preserve, and promote both the city’s abundant wildlife and the concept of families connecting with the outdoors. Tucked away on the boundary of an established neighborhood not far from the Jewel Lake Shopping Center and Dimond Boulevard, the estuary park was officially opened this past October to rave reviews from visitors.

It was a chilly, gray afternoon when we arrived at the small (10-space) parking lot off of Selkirk Drive. We’d already had our wildlife sighting for the afternoon with the observation of two moose munching on tree branches in a nearby yard, and our senses were heightened to the real possibility of more creatures on this late fall day.

The modern trailhead has interpretive signs outlining current and future plans for the estuary property, and is certainly more than adequate now, with a porta-potty, crane-themed bike racks, and beautiful split-rail fence surrounding the expanse of property.

The trail follows a general loop, with three side trails leading to observation areas. Tall grasses had turned brown and spindly in the November air, and blades whispered together in the stiff breeze blowing in from Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm. Old, old cottonwood and birch trees, their branches gnarled in a decades-old dance of weather-related survival, bent over us like an Alaskan outdoor cathedral of the hightest reverence. Even AK Kid, usually one to shout and scamper around whenever we hike, was momentarily hushed by the combination of wind and forest.

Can you spot the big daddy moose?

We followed the path counter-clockwise, mostly due to a rather large bull moose who had chosen a spot quite near the trail’s other path for a little snooze. Part of the estuary’s appeal is the large number of migratory birds who hang out here; most of those were gone, but we did spy a pair of ducks swimming up the creek and padding along the muddy shoreline, staring at us with cocked heads and soft “quacks.” Songbirds were everywhere, “chick-a-dee-dee-ing” and chattering among the bare tree tops, and a woodpecker did us the honor of tapping away on a standing dead tree before flitting off to the west.

Funders Anchorage Park Foundation, Municipality of Anchorage, and Great Land Trust have succeeded in another way, too. Near the lower viewing deck, almost at ground level, stood a sign that encouraged quiet reflection about the wide, grassy land before us.

What did we hear? See? Smell? It only took a moment or two. Imagine the perspectives children might have, if brought here throughout the seasons. Who is here, now? Who left? And why?

Beautiful questions to ponder, in this little slice of heaven.

If you go: 

Take Minnesota Parkway to Dimond Boulevard, traveling west on Dimond past the Jewel Lake Road.

Turn left on Edinburgh Drive, then a right to Selkirk.

Park in the lot, taking care to be respectful of nearby neighbors.

The estuary is free to visit, but please, NO DOGS. Be mindful of moose and bears, and stay on the established trails. More construction is pending, but will be completed as weather allows. Do not venture out onto the estuary grassland at this time. It is possible to ski during the winter, when the ground is frozen.

~EK

Posted in Alaska Wildlife Experiences, Hiking in Alaska and tagged , , , .