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Earthquake Park, Anchorage

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From the descriptions I’d read before my visit, I was expecting Anchorage’s Earthquake Park to be quite impressive. It was here, back in 1964, that the land collapsed during the powerful Good Friday earthquake – one of the strongest to ever hit North America, sending homes and businesses plunging into Knik Arm. I expected to see something dramatic. But the truth is, Earthquake Park didn’t rock my world.

Location

Earthquake Park is located southwest of downtown Anchorage.  Take Northern Lights Boulevard to the west, towards the end of the airport runway, and you’ll find a parking area on the right side of the road. For a nice viewpoint of Anchorage, or to watch the planes land, keep driving past Earthquake Park to where the road curves around Point Woronzof.

My Visit

Don’t get me wrong, what happened here is quite remarkable. Anchorage sustained huge losses during the 1964 earthquake. Downtown buildings dropped by as much as 15 feet. And here, the area known as Turnagain Heights, broke free and slid downhill, destroying an area 8-thousand feet long, and 1,200 feet wide.

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But now, when you arrive, you see a forest.

Look a little closer, and you’ll notice that the floor of the forest isn’t quite what you would expect. There’s a dramatic drop, just beyond the parking area. A trail leads from the parking area out to a viewpoint. Along the way, you start to notice that you’re on the edge of this landslide area. But, it’s all overgrown, and after all this time, there are no remnants of damaged buildings to be seen.

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At the viewpoint, there are a few interpretive signs, and you also get a limited view to the north, over Knik Arm. On a clear day, you should also be able to see Denali (Mount McKinley).

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Although it’s a couple hundred miles away, it’s also really, really big. At first you might think it’s a small cloud on the horizon. Look closer, and you’ll see it’s a mountain.

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The path out to the viewpoint crosses the Tony Knowles Coastal Bicycle Trail. If you have a bicycle, or roller blades or a skateboard, or you just want to go for a walk on a paved trail, this is a great place to explore. The trail wraps around the western end of Anchorage, giving you numerous viewpoints of Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm, as well as Denali and the city of Anchorage, with the Chugach Mountains as a backdrop.

You can also see that view of the city by driving further out Northern Lights Boulevard, beyond Earthquake Park. A particularly nice spot is at the end of the airport runway. I stopped here on my final evening in Alaska, just hours before getting on the plane for the trip home.

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At this viewpoint, you’ll get to see airplanes flying low overhead, as they arrive in Anchorage. Look the other direction, and you’ll see the city’s skyline. Yeah, I know, “skyline” is a rather strong word to use for a city the size of Anchorage, but hey, it’s the biggest city in the state!  The sky was too cloudy for a great sunset, but on better days, this is a go-to place for a good shot.

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