If you have driven or plan to drive south on Seward Highway from Anchorage toward Seward, you will see a boardwalk jutting out into the marsh and swampland that pushes up against the inlet. While it is directly bordering the fairly busy Seward Highway, this wetland is a wildlife viewing paradise for Alaska visitors called Potter Marsh. While it is not a hike out in the middle of our beautiful Alaska wilderness, it is a perfect little adventure to see some amazing birds and other wildlife with a beautiful backdrop of Alaskan mountains across from Cook Inlet.
Potter Marsh has about a 1/2 mile of boardwalk winding its way around the marsh. It is an out-and-back sort of trail – not a loop, so you will be covering the distance twice. It winds around over the marsh and Rabbit Creek and is a phenomenal viewing point to see all sorts of birds and wildlife. Along the trail are over a dozen signs explaining about the wetlands formation, the history of the land with the Dena’ina people, and the wildlife that now inhabits it. It is a very informative trail so be sure to take advantage of that! There are also several stations with binoculars that allow you to see farther into the marsh. Our kids love these and have a tendency to be well entertained at these stations for a good long while.
One of my favorite parts about Potter Marsh is the wildlife. And my absolute favorite part is that it’s the place we’ve most frequently discovered trumpeter swans. I love these magnificent birds – they are so regal and amazing! Your best chance to see the trumpeter swans are during May through August, though we have seen them a little earlier and later depending on the weather patterns that year. You can also catch glimpses of bald eagles, geese, ducks, terns, and other gorgeous winged animals.
If you are there during the summer months, be sure to watch the water, as well! You may be able to watch the salmon run from the saltwater into the fresh water to begin a new generation of salmon. These salmon will sport their beautiful red colors as they fulfill their end of the circle of life. If you watch carefully, you may also be lucky enough to see a muskrat swimming just below the surface of the water.
And don’t forget to look out across the marsh. This is a wonderful place to glimpse moose. The largest member of the deer family, the moose are long-legged, beautiful creatures. While out on a walk at Potter Marsh one day, a moose slipped beneath the boardwalk we were walking on and meandered slowly across the marsh. It was an amazing thing to watch and experience! (Use this as a head’s up, as well, to be alert in your surroundings and be sure you are keeping an eye out for these moose! They can be territorial and aggressive and close encounters should be avoided.)
Our Overall Opinion on Potter Marsh
While I definitely prefer the hikes out in the Alaskan wilderness, Potter Marsh is definitely worth a stop be you a local or a tourist. You do have to set your expectations for the fact that the busy Seward Highway runs right along the marsh. You will hear the traffic and it’s not as peaceful as most other Alaska outdoor adventures. But the wildlife viewing and birding opportunities here are definitely worth making the stop. It’s also a great little activity to do with your kids if you want to get them out in to nature and the fresh air without them getting too dirty or tired on the trails. I know my kids love to run along the boardwalk and hear the “thump! thump! thump!” as they run across the wood. If you are looking for a fun way to cap off a day, be sure to head over to Moose’s Tooth for some yummy pizza or down to Beluga Point for some amazing views of Turnagain Arm.
We hope this helps you plan your next adventure here in the Last Frontier. Be sure to check out our Instagram page to discover more of our daily Alaskan adventures! Till next time!