Draining a 125,000-acre watershed and flowing clear over productive spawning gravel beds, the Anchor River supports runs of three salmon species, Dolly Varden, and one of the northernmost runs of steelhead on the continent. The sensitive and heavily used estuary and barrier beach system, where the Anchor drains into Cook Inlet, supports thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds during annual migrations, large numbers of bald eagles in the spring and summer, and some of the highest densities of over-wintering waterfowl in Cook Inlet. Here, salmon and steelhead rest before continuing upstream to spawn, and young fry spend months in the productive salt marsh estuary.
The river bottomland provides winter moose browse and functions as part of a corridor from the North Fork moose wintering grounds. Kachemak Heritage Land Trust's Anchor River Project is an effort to work with willing landowners to preserve land parcels along the river for their significant habitat, recreation and open space values.
To date, KHLT owns properties along the lower Anchor River that directly preserve two miles of the river’s banks, and has helped other non-government conservation organizations acquire additional parcels spanning another mile of the river and containing wetlands important to the river’s health. These acquisitions help fill gaps in the river corridor protected by the State Department of Natural Resources and the State Parks system.
Kachemak Heritage Land Trust was contacted in 2000 by a landowner regarding his two contiguous parcels at the mouth of the Anchor River. Though privately owned, the outstanding fishing and recreational area had long been used by the public.
Seeking purchase funds, KHLT brought in The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as a partner, who received grants from the USFWS National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s Small Parcel Program. KHLT raised the $55,000 balance required through numerous individual donations. The State of Alaska was another key partner in the long and arduous purchase process completed by TNC in 2006, adding nearly 57 acres bridging a half mile of river to adjacent State parcels covering 180 acres and another 1.5 miles of the river directly upstream. Related stories
Around the same time that the Anchor River Mouth project was initiated in 2000, Mark and Deborah Starr of Montana donated two adjacent land parcels around river mile 7.5 to Kachemak Heritage Land Trust. Just under 56 acres, the property has considerable highway frontage and 4,400 feet of riverfront, and is a popular sport-fishing area for steelhead and Dolly Varden.
moose, waterfowl, and fish habitat, KHLT's Starr property is less than a mile from the Anchor River/Fritz Creek
Critical Habitat Area and borders 317 acres of State Department of Natural Resources land to the east
and south, including two miles of both sides of the river. Only a small sliver of private property separates
the Starr parcels from a 36-acre portion of the Anchor River State Recreation Area to the north,
protecting another half mile of river.
John and Margret Pate patented their homestead on the Anchor River just north of Blackwater Bend in 1959, “proving up” during the years before the highway connecting Homer and Anchorage was paved. While the Pates eventually settled closer to town, they continued to enjoy the property with their family. In 2005, Mrs. Pate generously donated a portion of the purchase price of this magnificent 64-acre parcel, enabling KHLT to purchase it for conservation at a bargain sale rate using funds from a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Most of the property is on the USFWS National Wetland Inventory and is classified as a riparian wetland ecosystem by the Kenai Watershed Forum; and the entire property is classified as priority moose habitat by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The property bridges a half-mile stretch of river, bordering State and Borough lands to the west and south totaling 201 acres and bridging another half mile of the river. Related story
In March 2011 Kachemak Heritage Land Trust purchased the 11.76–acre Martin property located off the Old Sterling Highway in Anchor Point. This property was the first acquired through KHLT's special Lower Peninsula Wetlands Fund. Its selection was based on its proximity to existing conservation units, and research conducted by Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, Homer Soil & Water Conservation District, and Cook Inletkeeper.
The Martin property contains river frontage and side channels with nine acres of discharge slope wetlands, all important for salmon and water quality. It is near the 64-acre Pate property, the 12-acre Clark property owned for conservation by Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. (a purchase facilitated by KHLT), and is across the river from property owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources designated for moose habitat and public access under the Kenai Area Plan. Related story
Acquired in the spring of 2013, the Smith and Purdy properties were the second and third purchased through KHLT’s Lower Peninsula Wetlands Fund. Like the neighboring Martin property, they front the Anchor River and contain side channels and wetlands important to juvenile salmon, and their selection was based on the same parameters and cooperative research. Adding their 15.35 acres to the Martin property forms a 27-acre block of protected salmon habitat in close proximity to other conserved parcels. Related story
Purchased in March 2015, the 11.16-acre Spangler-Kelley property brings KHLT’s total protected acreage in the Anchor River Salmon Conservation Area to 38.61. The fourth parcel purchased with KHLT’s Lower Peninsula Wetlands Fund, this river front property contains additional vital juvenile salmon habitat, wetlands, and moose habitat. Related story
KHLT will prohibit development on any part of the property that does not promote conservation of the riparian areas, and prohibit any use that could impair or interfere with the preservation of water quality or salmon habitat, in accordance with the terms of the Lower Peninsula Wetlands Fund.
Two more parcels comprising 15.87 acres were purchased by KHLT at the beginning of 2017, expanding the Anchor River Conservation Area to a total of 54.48 acres.
March 2015 Homer News article about collaborative efforts to preserve the Anchor River.