Eagle River is a suburb of Anchorage, Alaska1, about 14 miles northeast of downtown Anchorage. (This writeup will also cover the area to the north, called Chugiak, because the two are often treated as one.) The Eagle River-Chugiak area was initially settled by homesteaders, mostly after World War II. Beginning around the 1960s, most of the homesteads were subdivided into, well, subdivisions and sold. The area now has a population of around 30,000, most of whom commute into Anchorage to work (and sometimes, to play and shop).

Eagle River and Chugiak are bordered on the east by Chugach State Park, on the west by Knik Arm, and on the south by military reservations. The Glenn Highway (a four-lane freeway which becomes six south of Eagle River) runs through the area. Most development is east of the highway.

Eagle River proper, which is admittedly rather boring2, is a strange mix of frontier town and ordinary suburb. Most commercial development is a long strip along the Old Glenn Highway, especially in the "downtown" area near Business Boulevard. The rest of Eagle River is mainly suburban and rural residential development. Chugiak is similar but more rural. And yes, Eagle River has a Wal-Mart.

The area is not without its points of interest. N.B.: Most Eagle River-area attractions come under two main categories: scenic places (the region is very pretty, even some of the built-up areas, but not much of the prettiness is man-made) and outdoor activities: hiking, camping, boating, fishing, etc. There are no true malls or clubs or anything. If you need these things, try somewhere else. Anchorage is only a 15-minute drive away.

  • Alaska Museum of Natural History: Archaeological, geological, and paleontological exhibits. Don't take this to mean it's the kind with a huge exhibit hall with a Stegosaurus in the center or anything; it's not that big a museum. It's located in central Eagle River in the Parkgate Building. I've not had the opportunity to visit, but it's reputed to be quite worthwhile. (Edit 03/18/03: It's not there anymore. I believe it lost its lease, and is now moving to Anchorage.)
  • Eagle River Nature Center: Lies within Chugach State Park at mile 12 of Eagle River Road (mile 0 is in downtown ER) and is a fairly typical visitor's center, with interpretative displays, those video monitors with the informative tapes, wildlife viewing, access to trails, and the like.
  • Harry J. McDonald Center: Formerly called Fire Lake Recreation Center, this facility has an Olympic-sized hockey rink and jogging track. (There's very little information about the facility available; if it's worth elaborating on, someone please do.)
  • Eklutna: (see my writeup)
  • Mirror Lake: (10 miles from Eagle River, 24 from Anchorage) So called because of its unusual color and reflective qualities. It's good for fishing and picnicking, as well as skating in winter.
  • Thunderbird Falls: A waterfall of Thunderbird Creek (11 miles from Eagle River, 25 from Anchorage) at the end of a one-mile scenic trail following a ridge over the creek; excellent views, even though the falls themselves have receded somewhat in recent decades.
  • Eagle River: Not the town; the river itself. It can be accessed from Hiland Road and Eagle River Loop Road south of Eagle River proper. It's a good place to kayak and raft (class II-IV waters).

    Events are in part the usual small-town fare: fireworks on the 4th of July, tree lightings at Christmas, that sort of thing. The Bear Paw Festival is a county fair-type event held every July. On the fourth Saturday of June, Eagle River plays host to the Scottish Highland Games, which are exactly what the name implies.

    Access to the Eagle River area is pretty much limited to cars. If you can't drive, find someone who can. The bus service to the area isn't very useful (and just plain useless on weekends), and pedestrian amenities are rather limited (especially in winter).

    Sources and Further Information:
    The Milepost. Bellevue, WA: Vernon Publications Inc., 1997.
    Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce: http://www.cer.org

    1. This isn't technically correct, but Anchorage geopolitics are slightly weird, so for convenience's sake, I'll refer to Eagle River as if it were an independent town.
    2. I'll spell out my bias and say that I don't actually live in Eagle River. However, I have been there several times, and the central area generally sucks. The neighborhoods are probably nicer, though.