Scenery and wildlife are just two of Alaska’s assets – the Alaska State Parks and Recreation Areas are a close third. In the interior of our beautiful state, several of these parks can be found along the Richardson Highway near the small town of Delta Junction, Alaska. Each park is unique, with its own features and attractions that are examined in the following list.
1) Quartz Lake State Recreation Area
This park is centered around two lakes, Quartz Lake and Lost Lake. There are campsites on both lakes, and two public use cabins available for reservation. If you prefer to be where the action is, the Quartz Lake campsites are perfect for you. There is a small swimming area, a boat rental shack, and a pavilion available to use. The Lost Lake campground is a beautifully wooded area with campsites that are a little more private. Both lakes are great for fishing and bird spotting. A small system of trails connects the campgrounds and one trail leads to a scenic lookout on Moose Pond. The turnoff for the Quartz Lake State Recreation Area is at mile 277.8 of the Richardson Highway.
2) Big Delta State Historical Park
This park is known locally as Rika’s Roadhouse. It is the location of a historical roadhouse built in the early twentieth century. Today, the park consists of several buildings, including the road house. Big Delta State Historical Park has a small museum with local artifacts and an old military telegraph system and a small cafe that serves sandwiches and pie. If you have small children, they may enjoy the ducks and goats that the park attendants care for in the park. RV parking is available, and overnight camping is allowed for a $5 fee. The park is located at mile 274.5 of the Richardson Highway. Geocachers take note: there is a tricky yet fun cache placed near the entrance to the park.
3) Clearwater State Recreation Site
This park is located several miles off the Richardson Highway, but is well worth the detour. It is situated on the banks of the Clearwater River, a small yet scenic river that is well known for its fishing, especially grayling. There are a few rustic campsites and a boat launch available. Fees for both amenities are posted at the entrance to the park. Right outside the Clearwater State Recreation Site is a locally owned bar and restaurant, which serves great burgers and has an outdoor dining area that overlooks the beautiful Clearwater River. The Clearwater State Recreation Site can be accessed from either the Alaska Highway or the Richardson Highway. If you are in “downtown” Delta Junction filling up your gas tank or picking up snacks, you can also take Nistler Road until it intersects Clearwater Road.
4) Delta State Recreation Site
This small park is also located in Delta Junction. It is right off the Richardson Highway, at mile 267. This park has a small number of campsites, each equipped with a picnic table and fire pit. Its close proximity to the highway doesn’t make it the first choice for tent camping near Delta Junction, but the Delta State Recreation Site is the perfect location to enjoy a picnic, or even just get out of the car and stretch your legs.
5) Donnelly Creek State Recreation Site
This campground is sandwiched between the Richardson Highway and the beautiful Delta River. Similar to many other rivers in Interior Alaska, the Delta River is a braided river; as it flows, small branches of the river break off and then run back together, creating a shallow, wide river valley. The local bison herd spends the summer grazing and raising calves in the wide bed of the Delta River, and can often be spotted from this campground. A few miles north of the Donnelly Creek State Recreation Site is Donnelly Dome, a very large hill. Climbing Donnelly Dome can be difficult, but the beautiful views of the Delta and Tanana River valleys from the top are unparalleled. The turn off for Donnelly Creek State Recreation Site is at mile 238 of the Richardson Highway. There are a few rustic campsites that vary in size, and overnight camping is a bargain at $10 per night.
6) Fielding Lake State Recreation Area
At mile 200.5 of the Richardson Highway is the quiet Fielding Lake State Recreation Site. The high elevation of this area keeps summer temperatures cool, and ice can be seen on the lake as late as July. Fielding Lake is not stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, but the natural population of fish such as Arctic grayling, lake trout, and burbot is high enough to allow recreational fishing. This campground offers both campsites and public use cabins, and also has a boat launch. Beautiful views and near solitude are the highlights of Fielding Lake State Recreation Area, and the absence of fees for tent camping and boat launching make this park unbeatable.
Whether you are looking for a few nice fishing holes to hang out at or just passing through on your way to Fairbanks, Anchorage, or Valdez, the state parks in the Delta Junction area are worth experiencing.