Wood-Tikchik State Park Natural History
Creation of the Park
The high recreational, scenic and natural values of the Wood River-Tikchik Lakes have long made the area a center of attention. In the early 1960’s the National Park Service proposed the area for addition to the National Park System. State selection of the area in 1961-62 and subsequent proposals to create a state park nullified federal designation efforts. In 1961 the Director of the Department of Natural Resources suggested to the Director of the National Park Service that the Wood River-Tikchik Lakes area was of such “magnificence” as to warrant interagency consideration of a plan for utilization of the area.
In 1978 the State Legislature designated Wood-Tikchik State Park as part of the Alaska State Park System (AS 41. 21.160). In 1985 southern portions were added by a proclamation of the Governor. In 1986, State Parks entered into a land management agreement with the Aleknagik Natives Limited regarding corporate lands within the park surrounding the Agulowak River. Under the agreement, low-impact public use of corporate lands within the park is allowed in return for park ranger field presence. Lake Aleknagik State Recreation Site offers a gateway to the park. This site was developed through a land exchange in 1996 to provide public access to the lake.
Large portions of the Wood-Tikchik State Park are de facto wilderness, experiencing very little visitation and offering few, if any, man-made comforts. Managing the more remote parts of the park for wilderness values is consistent with both legislative direction and local interests, with one major exception: use of motorized vehicles. Conventional wilderness management restricts or prohibits motorized activities, yet the park enabling bill states that park regulations:
“Shall recognize the current practice of traditional subsistence and recreational activities including the use of small outboard motors and snowmachines. Reasonable access by aircraft for recreational purposes shall be permitted”
As set forth in the enabling legislation, a primary purpose in creating Wood-Tikchik State Park was to insure that traditional uses of the area were allowed to continue. While local residents use the park year-round, the park sees its heaviest use between June 15 and the end of September – the prime fishing and hunting seasons.
Residents of Aleknagik and Dillingham as well as the surrounding villages use the park for a variety of resources. Many residents of these villages are highly dependent on a subsistence lifestyle. The most important fish and game resource within the park is salmon, although moose, caribou and resident fish are also important. The park is also used for gathering firewood, picking berries, trapping and providing other renewable resources for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and handicrafts.
The weather is generally cool and moist with daily high/low temperatures in July averaging 65°F and 46°F, respectively. Precipitation is most prevalent in the summer, occurring about 27% of the time in August along the coast. Total precipitation averages 25 inches annually in Dillingham, with fairly large local variations experienced within the area, due to wide variations in terrain.
Annual snowfall averages 60 to 70 inches at Dillingham and may reach more than 160 inches at Lake Nerka. Winds are usually moderate (0-30 mph), prevailing from the southeast/southwest in summer and from the north and east in winter.
Although the weather from late May to early October permits outdoor recreational activities almost daily; flying, boating, and alpine activities are occasionally hampered or unsafe due to inclement weather. Be prepared to delay your activities until conditions allow for safe travel.
The Wood-River Tikchik Lake area is split between two physiographic provinces. The western portion of the area lies in the Wood River Mountains. The eastern portion lies in the Nushagak and Bristol Bay lowlands. The Wood River Mountains are steep and rugged with elevations of 2000 to 5000 feet the lakes and lowlands are between 50 and 500 feet above sea level. The lakes are glacial in origin and are long and deep. The entire area has been extensively glaciated. Surface geology consists predominantly of coarse rubble with bedrock exposures on steep mountain slopes, and moraines and associated drifts at lower elevations.
Wood-Tikchik allows visitors to explore a variety of habitats and a broad diversity of plant life. Lake shores, bogs, open tundra, grassy and alpine meadows, forests, alpine summits and scree slopes provide varying environments for a multitude of plant species to find their niche. Lowland vegetation often includes: grasses, sedges, willows, birch, alder, rich wetlands and a variety of vibrant wildflowers.
The forest types and densities found in the park vary extensively. The northern portion of the park is higher in elevation and far from the effects of the sea. Trees are occasional to the north but forests become more widespread and in denser stands in the southern and eastern parts of the park. Forests are generally confine to sheltered and moderately well-drained areas that lie below 1000 feet in elevation.