Anchorage Coastal —
Public Use and Access
The Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge provides an array of opportunities for public use including wildlife viewing, photography, limited waterfowl hunting (see Permits tab), recreational shooting (at the Rabbit Creek Shooting Park), hiking, nature study, and in winter cross-country skiing, ice skating, and bike riding. Multiple locations along Anchorage's western and southern coastline provide access to the refuge, many through municipal and neighborhood parks (PDF 460 kB) . Be sure to leash your dog and avoid disturbing migratory birds and other wildlife during your visit. Please note that dogs are not allowed on the Potter Marsh boardwalks and feeding wildlife anywhere in the refuge is prohibited.
The most popular and easily accessible portions of the refuge are the wildlife viewing boardwalks at Potter Marsh, located at milepost 117 of the Seward Highway at its intersection with East 154th Avenue, just 10 miles from downtown Anchorage. Approximately 1/2 mile of elevated boardwalks (accessible to those with mobility impairments) with free spotting scopes and educational panels wind through the marsh providing abundant opportunities to view, photograph, and study wildlife such as waterfowl, shorebirds, terns, bald eagles, beaver, muskrats, moose, and occasionally brown and black bears. The boardwalks provides great opportunities to view the adult Chinook, coho, and pink salmon that return to the marsh and creeks each summer to spawn, as well as year-round resident fish such as Dolly Varden. A family-friendly Potter Marsh Field Journal (PDF 387 kB) is available free to download and helps kids and their families enjoy and learn about Potter Marsh through fun activities.
Limited pullouts on the Seward Highway also provide opportunities to view wildlife but caution should be taken when entering and existing due to highway traffic. A pullout and parking area at the south end of Potter Marsh (milepost 115 Seward Highway at its intersection with Potter Valley Road) will be expanded in 2022 to include short boardwalks, spotting scopes, educational panels, and other improvements.
Adjacent to Potter Marsh and on the opposite side of the Seward Highway is the Rabbit Creek Shooting Park. The shooting park provides hunters and recreational shooters of all skill levels with public ranges for handgun, centerfire rifles, rimfire rifles, archery, and non-toxic shotgun clay target shooting. Whether this is your first shooting experience or you are a professional shooter, the shooting park staff will welcome you for a safe and enjoyable day at the range.
During fall, hunters enjoy harvesting migratory waterfowl in limited sections of the refuge's outer coast. Please review the requirements and limitations prior to venturing onto the refuge. To provide for wildlife viewing opportunities and to ensure public safety, portions of the refuge including Potter Marsh, are closed to hunting. Be sure to take precautions when venturing into the marshes and sedge flats on the refuge's outer coast as incoming tides move fast and can strand hunters, and the sticky Turnagain Arm mud can trap an unwary adventurer.
Winter opens new opportunities to explore the refuge and many ice skaters enjoy the extensive frozen surfaces of Potter Marsh. Cross-country skiing, "fat tire" bike riding, paragliding, kite skiing, and other snow or ice-compatible activities are popular in winter. Caution must always be exercised as thin ice is common where springs emerge into the wetlands, and Cook Inlet's famously extreme tides are still active on the refuge's outer coast.