The forests of coastal southcentral Alaska are atmospheric, fresh and alive. On the Kenai Peninsula, where the town of Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park are located, moody and lush low-lying forests nestle up against towering peaks and ancient glaciers.
Where the Resurrection River pours down from the Chugach Mountains and widens into braids, the forest clings to the slope. At the Windsong Lodge, nestled next to the mighty Resurrection River and at the edge of the Chugach National Forest, the forest rules. This is the farthest reach of the same temperate forest that stretches all the way south along the Pacific Coast as far as Northern California. And it's a special place. Everything in the temperate rainforest is connected, from towering trees to tiny lichens.
Here are 5 things we love about this forest:
- Glacial past: Imagine this valley covered by glaciers, as it was in the last ice age. You can still see the Exit Glacier just up the road from the Windsong Lodge in a U-shaped valley where the retreat is evident. But, you can also imagine the giant sheet of ice that covered the entire valley where the lodge sits. That rawness, so close to both the high mountains and the sea, makes the forest here particularly crisp.
- Shady canopy: The forests of coastal southcentral Alaska are made up mostly of towering Sitka spruce trees as well as some western or mountain hemlocks, cottonwood and alders. They cover nearly 70 percent of the forest's rooftop. In the rain (and there's a lot of it!), this canopy provides shelter for those on the ground. Amidst the tall canopies you'll see plenty of birds, including Townsend's warblers, flycatchers and chickadees.
- The lushness: The Seward area averages between 55 and 80 inches of rain annually. That's a lot of moisture! The shade helps keep the air feeling thick. Temperate rainforests produce plenty of oxygen—no wonder it feels so good to be here!
- The forest floor: Immense spruce trees make a canopy for shade-loving mosses, ferns and shrubs. Moss and vegetation covers everything in green, and in a temperate rainforest that decomposes slowly, the understory is incredibly rich with lichens and moss. In the heart of summer, you may spot flowers including dogwood, aven, calypso, iris, fireweed and goldenrod, and berries like salmonberry, timberberry and elderberry. You'll see skunk cabbage leaves and devil's club thorns as you go up.
- The quiet: Amidst the verdant green forest, there's a sense of solitude here. The rustle of the canopy, the singing of the birds, the distant rumbling of a glacial river—the sounds of the temperate rainforest are subtle and serene. It makes being in the forest a coveted, calm and peaceful experience. The temperate rainforest of Alaska is a place to observe and understand the layers of the natural world. And it's just so incredibly quiet!
If you have time and interest in exploring more of the temperate rainforest of the Seward areas, head to Two Lake Park Trail or go exploring at Lowell Point. Be sure to dress appropriately—always bring a raincoat and wear sturdy walking or hiking shoes.