Gustavus Forelands Preserve

Open to the Public


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Come see the variety of plant communities and animals located at this Alaskan Preserve View All

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Why You Should Visit

The Gustavus Forelands Preserve protects a unique landscape of forest, wetlands and beaches in Southeast Alaska at the edge of Glacier Bay National Park.

Each year, the preserve provides vital stopover habitat for migrating sandhill cranes. The preserve also provides an opportunity to see the process of glacial uplift at work.


Southeast Alaska. At the remote town of Gustavus, pop. 450, accessible by commercial air service and private boat from the city of Juneau. For information on travel and accomodations, visit

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

In a region dominated by steep shorelines plunging into the sea, the flat topography of the Gustavus Forelands is a striking anomaly. This young landscape is home to a variety of animals some of which are uncommon in the older, heavily forested habitat typical of southeast Alaska. Birds such as Wilson's snipe, Canada geese, and short-eared owls nest in the wet uplands. Coyotes eke out a living on the periphery of the nearby town. Thousands of migratory waterfowl, such as sandhill cranes, and shorebirds rest and feed on the extensive mudflats. Black bears fatten up on strawberries and nagoonberries in the rich beach meadows. Marten, river otter, coyote, moose and wolf also frequent the forelands.

What the Conservancy Is Doing

The Conservancy obtained the lands that became the Gustavus Forelands Preserve in 2004. The preserves four parcels are located in and around the town of Gustavus and protect an area of more than 2,600 acres. Two additional parcels, or about 1,600 acres, that border the Dude Creek State Critical Habitat Area were deeded directly to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to be managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

To build the Nagoonberry Loop Trail in 2009, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska received financial support from Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, SEAtrails and the city of Gustavus. The trail offers an intimate encounter with with the region's landscapes to residents and those who visit Gustavus on their way to Glacier Bay National Park.

The 2,600-acre preserve is open to foot-traffic year-round. The  2.5-mile Nagoonberry Loop trail leads hikers through forests, meadows and wetlands in an accessible segment of the preserve. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the preserve.

What to See: Plant Communities
Four major types of plant communities comprise the Gustavus Forelands Preserve.

  • Intertidal or supertidal meadows
  • Willow or alder thickets
  • Spruce forest
  • Mixed forest of pine, cottonwood and spruce

A small sampling of plants at the preserve includes:

  • fireweed
  • wild iris
  • rye grass
  • cow parsnip
  • horsetail
  • lupine

What to See: Animals

  • Sandhill cranes: They congregate in preserve wetlands in the fall during migration stopovers.
  • Moose: The forelands offer important winter range for the moose, which is a relatively recent arrival in the Gustavus Forelands. Gustavus residents reported the first moose sighting in 1966.
  • Grassland birds: The grassy meadows of the forelands are home to a range of nesting grassland birds, including short-eared owls and waterfowl such as Canada geese.

Turn off the main road (Gustavus has only one paved street) onto Glen's Ditch Road which dead ends at the parking lot/ trail head for the Nagoonberry Loop Trail.  The trail meanders a 2.5 mile loop bringing hikers back to the parking lot.  Maps of town are available from the owners of local inns and lodges.


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