The Chena Lake Recreation Area is 2,000 acres of multi-use trails, waterways and ponds, forests, and campgrounds. The sand beaches, playgrounds, and some trails are designated day-use only, but some parts of Chena Lakes are available for camping. There is a wonderful 4.5 mile self-guided nature trail. The lake is excellent for boating and fishing , as is the river upstream.
How do you get there? The Chena Lake Recreation Area is just outside of North Pole, about 15 miles southeast of Fairbanks. To get there from Fairbanks, head South to the Steese Highway and go East (right) when it merges with Richardson Highway toward North Pole. Follow the signs. Chena Lakes Recreation Area will be on your left after you pass through North Pole.
The first thing you notice at Chena Lake Recreation Area is the earthen dam (the Moose Creek Dike) that seems to go on for miles; seven miles to be exact. The damn is 50-feet high and creates the 256 acre Chena Lake. It is part of the Chena River flood control project developed in response to the 1967 Fairbanks flood. the dike does present unopposed views of woodlands, waterways, marshes and meadows rich with wildlife.
Wildlife viewing Wildlife viewing opportunities include grizzly and black bears, the occasional wolf and plenty of moose, but also fox,(you’re not likely to see a lynx, but they are there), coyotes, snowshoe hares and red squirrels.
Birds: Grouse and ptarmigan hide in the shrubs. Larger birds like kestrels, hawks and osprey soar overhead.
Fish: King and Chum salmon are on their spawning journey in late summer, and Grayling (known to some as “Ladyfish” for their colorful “coats”) are there from breakup to freeze. A designated overlook near the dam spillway is a great place to see the large fish in action. Bears come to the gravel bars and river’s edge to “harvest” dead salmon in fall.
Wildlife viewing is excellent in winter too ~ watch for tracks in the snow and see where they go! You can cross-country ski trails with a 2km, 4.5km, and 7km loop as well as a multi-use trail with a 3.8, 5.5, 6.5, 9.5 and 12 mile loops for snowmachining, ski jouring, dog mushing, walking, running etc. cross country ski, snowshoe or even do some dog mushing (we don’t call it sledding up here).