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Protecting Alaska's Cook Inlet watershed and the life it sustains since 1995.
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The Watershed

Alaska's Cook Inlet Watershed: A brief introduction.

Overview of the Cook Inlet Watershed

The Cook Inlet watershed is a spectacular ecosystem covering 47,000 square miles of Southcentral Alaska. Melting snow and ice from Mount McKinley, the Chugach Mountains and the Aleutian Range drain into rivers such as the mighty Susitna, the Matanuska and the Kenai, which feed the productive waters of Cook Inlet.

Over 400,000 people - nearly 2/3 of Alaska’s population - live in the watershed, and the Cook Inlet region is the fastest growing in the state. Cook Inlet families and communities depend on the watershed’s healthy waters and wild habitats for their livelihoods. Alaska Native villages pursue a subsistence lifestyle that is centuries old, supplying up to 90% of the villagers’ diet. Cook Inlet represents one of the most productive fisheries in Alaska, in which five species of salmon, herring, scallops, halibut, and several other species of bottom fish are harvested. And each year, nearly one million visitors from around the world venture to Cook Inlet to relish its magnificent beauty.

The Cook Inlet Watershed is BIG

Anchorage is Alaska's largest city, where nearly half the state's population lives.  Cook Inletkeeper is headquartered in Homer, at the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula.  The Kenai Peninsula lies between Prince William sound to the east and Cook Inlet to the west, and is a popular tourist destination.

  • The watershed stretches 430 miles from its northernmost tip to its southernmost tip, and 220 miles from its easternmost reaches to its westernmost reaches.
  • Cook Inlet is 192 miles long.
  • 8,000 square miles of saltwater.
  • The watershed drains 39,000 square miles--about the size of the US State of Virginia.


The Cook Inlet Watershed is DIVERSE

A Tufted PuffinThe watershed encompasses some of Alaska's most diverse and unique ecosystems, including the alpine tundra of the Denali wilderness, coastal rainforests of the southern Kenai Peninsula, and abundant wetlands of the Susitna, Kenai and Matanuska river deltas.   Cook Inlet's marine environment has been noted by scientists as among the most productive ecosystems in the world.


The Cook Inlet Watershed is WILD

Public Land in the Cook Inlet WatershedOne of the highest concentrations of public lands in the nation is located within the watershed, including Denali, Katmai, Kenai Fjords and Lake Clark National Parks, Chugach National Forest, Kenai and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuges, four state parks and sanctuaries, including the world famous McNeil River Bear Sanctuary, and seven Critical Habitat Areas.  These productive habitats support a rich fabric of life, including brown and black bears, moose, caribou, migratory birds, wolves, humpback, beluga and killer whales, sea otters, sea lions and all five species of wild pacific salmon.

  • 36,000 square miles (92%) of the watershed is public land.

  • 7 national parks and wildlife refuges are found within the watershed.

  • 4 state parks including Alaska's only state park wilderness are in the watershed.

  • 7 state critical habitat areas are in Cook Inlet watershed.

Sixty four percent of the Cook Inlet watershed is owned by the State of Alaska--much of this is undesignated land--land which is not in wildlife or park units.  Twenty five percent is owned by the federal government, and a large portion of this is also undesignated.  Only 5% is privately owned--the rest is owned primarily by native or other corporations.