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Ship Creek Unplugged - Restoring Ship Creek to a More Natural Condition


  • 1. Restore the river’s sediment transport.
  • 2. Improve fish passage on the lower 7 miles of Ship Creek.
  • 3. Enhance degraded spawning habitat.
  • 4. Increase riparian functions.


  • 1. Remove three failing culverts at the mouth of Ship Creek.
  • 2. Modify the Knik Arm Power Plant (KAPP) Dam.
  • 3. Remove or modify the Elmendorf Dam.
  • 4. Remove or modify the Fort Richardson Dam.
  • 5. Complete several stream bank revegetation projects.


Ship Creek Picture


Ship Creek Unplugged

Ship Creek

The Creek:

Ship Creek begins its journey toward the sea high in the Chugach Mountains, 15 miles southeast of Anchorage.

The creek's headwaters descend from Ship Lake at 2,700 feet and drain 117 square miles. From its alpine meadow and perennial snowfield headwaters, the creek flows 25 miles north and then west through forests and wetlands to reach the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet. The creek has numerous small tributaries and one larger tributary, the north fork of Ship Creek, which flows into the main stem 20 miles upstream from the mouth.

Along the upper 15 miles of channel, equivalent to 77% of the watershed, the creek is protected from development by Chugach State Park.


The current city of Anchorage began on the banks of Ship Creek. Two families of "squatters" lived near the mouth of Ship Creek in 1911 and by 1914 were sharing the area with another two families. When the Alaska Engineering Commission decided to build its first field headquarters on Ship Creek and the railroad began construction, the promise of work drew people to the area. A "tent city" of at least a thousand tents formed on Ship Creek's north side in the spring of 1915 despite the railroad signs that prohibited settling on either side of the creek. The growing town spread to the surrounding bluffs. Voters had to choose between three names: Alaska City, Ship Creek and Anchorage.


The lower reaches of Ship Creek have been affected. The lower 10 miles contain industry, development, and dams. Three to four miles of the creek have been channelized. Industries and businesses, located in close proximity to the creek, removed buffer vegetation. Dams block the migration of fish. Point and non-point source pollution also impact the creek. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) lists lower Ship Creek as a 303(d) impaired water body that is water quality limited due to presence of fecal coliform bacteria and petroleum products and recently designated the creek as a "Category I/ Most in Need of Restoration" watershed.

Ship Creek, which is designated as an anadromous fish stream by the ADF&G, supported thousands of king, silver, chum and pink salmon, as well as Dolly Varden char and trout until the early decades of the 20th Century. Over the past century, however, urbanization, dam construction and a road crossing have significantly reduced aquatic habitat and blocked fish passage into the watershed. Today, only remnant natural runs remain.

Despite these statistics, Ship Creek’s urban location makes it the second largest freshwater recreational fishery in the state. It is not unusual to see anglers in business attire and waders casting for hatchery-reared 40-pound king salmon on their lunch breaks. Ship Creek is one of the last places in the United States where residents continue to fish for wild salmon in urban waters.

Ship creek picture


Ship Creek Unplugged

Ship Creek Unplugged is:

1. Improving user access and safety through the construction of environmentally friendly walkways and staircases,
2. Restoring fish passage through the removal/modification of dams and culverts &
3. Enhancing fish and wildlife habitat through streambank restoration.

Ship Creek Unplugged - Projects

Fish Passage:
The AWC is working with Mayor Mark Begich, the Alaska Railroad and the three private dam owners to modify the KAPP Dam to restore historic pink and chum salmon habitat, increase downstream sediment transport, improve fish viewing opportunities and enhance fish passage.

Knik arm Power Plant
Knik Arm Power Plant (KAPP) Dam

TV Commercial:

Streambank Stabilization


In 1998, the Comfort Inn removed 100 linear feet of streambank vegetation, leading to severe bank erosion.


In May 2003, REI volunteers help the AWC plant
vegetative mats to anchor the soil and reduce erosion.



Thanks to Moore’s Landscaping, coir logs and root wads
now stabilize the streambank and prevent soil from muddying
the water.


Ship Creek Sponsors