The Friends of Eagle River Nature Center came into existence when it became apparent that the Chugach State Park was no longer able to support the center financially.
In 1995, Carole and Dick Lloyd, with Asta Spurgis, took over running the center, and it is now a popular non-profit destination.
Where Is the Eagle River Nature Center?
The Center is in Eager River, Alaska and is a gateway to Chugach State Park. You’ll find the center at the end of Eagle River Road. Cabins and yurts are available to rent and if you become a member, your rates will be discounted. An extra bonus to membership is that you’ll also receive unlimited free parking for the year.
There is no shortage of activities to be had at the Eagle River Nature Center, either self-guided or with the center’s knowledgeable staff. The trails are open 24/7 and are still accessible if the center is closed.
However, the Albert Loop trail is closed between late July and October as this is when the salmon are spawning. The Chugach State Park rangers enforce this closure due to the increased likelihood of encountering bears during this season.
Public Programs at the Eagle River Nature Center
The center runs a variety of programs for children and adults of all ages. Registration is required for most of the programs. The following is a small selection of what they have to offer:
Junior Naturalist Programs
The junior naturalist programs are designed for children in grades K to the 6th and their families. When the children have attended 12 of the junior naturalist or all ages programs, they receive their Junior Naturalist badge. Children must always be accompanied with an adult.
- Lazy Summer Crafternoon: suitable for children ages 6 and older with a limit of 12 participants. A fun afternoon of crafting.
- Lumberjack Olympics: children can compete in the caber toss, crosscut saw, and log rolling events.
- Shelter Building: limited to 12 children, this program teaches lean-to buildings skills and how to protect yourself from the elements.
- Salmon Day: children attend the classroom yurt to learn about the salmon life cycle and then head over to the viewing decks to look for spawning salmon.
- Things with Wings: an open house where both children and adults can learn about our winged friends.
- Berries for Kids: a one-mile walk on the Rodak loop to learn about which berries are safe to eat and which are not. Berries are not allowed to be picked during this session.
Programs for the Teens
- Youth Wilderness First Aid/CPR: this is a 3-day intensive wilderness course for youth between the ages of 12 and 18. The hours of attendance are 10am to 4pm each day and students should bring their lunch, water, and appropriate outdoor gear. Students will earn a 2-year CPR certification and a 2-year wilderness first aid certificate.
- Food for Thought – Climate Change: suitable for teens over 13 years, this workshop is aimed at teaching young people about lowering our carbon footprint. The students will make their own personal pizza as a method of teaching them alternatives to buying damaging frozen foods.
Programs for All Ages
- Wildlife Safety: this is a walk-in group to learn about appropriate behavior and safety in Bear and Moose country.
- Lost-proofing Your Child: this is an indoor and outdoor program for families. Participants will role-play a situation where a child or parent hides and the audience must find them.
- Itch, Prickle, and Sting: a short walk to identify which plants can irritate the skin and which stinging insects need to be avoided.
Other Programs at the Eagle River Nature Center
The center also has programs available for pre-school children that include short walks to explore nature and story-time on the back deck. The workshops are also popular with people of all ages the fungus workshop has been broken down into two parts.
Schools and Groups
The center offers self-guided visits for groups and reservations are needed for groups large than 20 people. They also offer naturalist-guided visit and outreach programs.
Several events are staged at the center throughout the year. On August 11, 2018, the annual Dew Mound and Crow Pass Trails footrace will be held. The entry fee is $30 for pre-registration or $35 for registration on the day.
The Homeschool series open house will be held on August 30 this year and this event gives families an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about the homeschooling program while the children explore the animal pelts and skulls along the track.
The Eagle River Nature Center Trails
The nature center has several trails that are maintained regularly by volunteers. These trails are suitable for both beginner and advanced hikers. The trails begin behind the log cabin and offer mountain views, rivers, streams, glaciers, and a multitude of wildlife. All trails are open all year-round but please take weather-appropriate clothing and supplies.
Dogs are welcome on the Eagle River trails but must be on a leash in the carpark, on the Rodak Nature trail, and the Albert Loop trail. Pet waste bags can be found at the beginning of the trails and all waste must be removed by the pet owner.
Cycling is prohibited, and most trails are for foot traffic only. But skiing and snowshoeing are possible during the winter months. Fat tire bicycles are given access to the Eagle River by way of the lower Albert Loop trail, but this is only allowed during the winter months.
Exact directions can be found on the Center’s trail map.
The 6-mile Dew Mound trail and the 23-mile (one-way) Crow Pass trail are two of the most popular. The Crow Pass trail ends at Girdwood but the Eagle River Nature Center only maintains the first 3 miles of this trail.
The Rapids Camping Area
This area can be utilized as long as you have a camping permit. It’s equipped with a picnic table, metal fire ring, and a food storage locker. The area is monitored regularly to ensure the forest resources continue to be available to the public.
A permit for the Rapids Camping area costs $2 per person and the maximum capacity is 24 people or six 4-person tents. Permits must be displayed on a designated sign post, so they can be seen clearly. The number of people and the date must be visible at a glance. Check-in and check-out times are 12pm for the Rapids camping area.
Cabin and Yurt Rental
If you’re looking for a truly rustic experience the cabin and yurt rentals are the perfect solution. These rentals don’t have electricity, running water, plumbing, or even kindling to start a fire. During June, July, and August, wood is delivered to the facilities every day as we need to preserve the natural resources we have.
The cabin sleeps up to 8 people and the yurts sleep up to 4 or 6. At least two people will need to sleep on the floor, so please make sure you bring everything you need for that purpose. The center provides a bear-resistant food locker and there’s a water source close by. However, the water will need to be purified.
The Center takes reservations for these stays for up to a year in advance. Keep in mind that these reservations are non-refundable. They suggest you pass your reservation on to friends or family if you find you can’t make it after all.
These rentals are a great way to teach the kids about survival in the wilderness, but safety is our first concern. All children must be accompanied by experienced adults. There is parking available for up to four vehicles and a small hike to each cabin or yurt.