• USE : Walk. Estuary Life is an ADA accessible trail.
• DESCRIPTION : Upper Starrigavan Valley views. Interpretive signs and displays along Estuary Life boardwalk describe the estuary ecosystem.
• DISTANCE : 1 Mile (one way)
• TIME : 1.5 Hours (one way)
• TRAILHEAD : Begins near the Old Sitka Boat Launch and Ends at Parking area near end of Halibut Point Road, at Starrigavan Campground. The separated multiuse path, along the ocean and through Old Sitka park and the boat launch can be used to walk back to the Boat Launch parking lot.
• ELEVATION GAIN : 150 feet
• RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year-round, but use caution when wet or icy
• LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Easy. These gravel and boardwalk trails are accessible to people with physical disabilities at the difficult level. Boardwalk sections can be slippery.
• TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service: Estuary Life trail and Alaska State Parks: Forest and Muskeg trail. Alaska State Parks ceased maintenance of the trail when Ranger position defunded due to budget cuts in 2015.
The trail is located about 6.5 miles north of Sitka on Halibut Point Road, and about .25 miles north of the Ferry Terminal. The trail begins at the Old Sitka boat launch parking area and at the US Forest Service campground on the right side of the road, past the bridge over Starrigavan River.
The trail gently climbs through a typical southeastern Alaska forest to reach a scenic muskeg, dotted with small ponds and stunted lodgepole(shore) pines. This trail is barrier free, and rated at difficult for accessibility, with some grades up to 12%. Along the Estuary Life portion of the trail there is a bird viewing platform from which many different birds and other wildlife can be seen.
The trail begins by gradually climbing across a side hill to a forested muskeg with small streams. The trail is gravel until it reaches the outskirts of the muskeg on the top of a low hill. Through the muskeg, the trail is a boardwalk and winds among marshy ponds until reaching the forest again, with views up Starrigavan valley. The trail gradually descends through the forest with occasional glimpses through the trees of Starrigavan estuary.
At the base of the hill, the trail crosses Nelson Logging Road and crosses Starrigavan River to the Estuary Life portion of the trail. In late summer and early fall spawning salmon may be seen from the bridge. This portion of the trail continues on boardwalk at a gentle 5% grade for about a quarter mile to a bird viewing platform. Bears are common feeding on the grassy flats in the estuary, and sometimes use the trails. Interpretive panels discuss the birds that use the estuary and the fascinating dynamics of an estuary.
Alaska travel information
Matt Goff’s Site: