Peterson Bay Field Station

Peterson Bay Field Station

petersonFew places in the world have as rich a living laboratory as our Peterson Bay Field Station on the south shore of Kachemak Bay. A rustic building on the edge of the wilderness, it is accessible only by boat from Homer.

The rich intertidal areas of Peterson and China Poot Bays are known for the diversity of life exposed by extreme tides and are a short distance from the front door. Trails wind through the coastal forest at the back door. The area teems with wildlife, including a diversity of sea stars, octopus, red squirrels, black bears, harbor seals, sea otters, and a myriad of land and seabirds.

The two-story main building contains a central room, mud room, and a small kitchen. Upstairs, two small bedrooms provide private sleeping areas for CACS staff and volunteers. The central upstairs room serves as a basic laboratory, with microscopes, including a video scope. downstairs. The central room is a beehive of activity. For our summer tour guests, it is used for orientation, eating lunch and relaxing and a small store. Our spring and fall school groups use it for orientation, slide shows, class discussions, meals, evening games, and quiet times.

Outside, a wraparound deck provides educational space for group activities and viewing of marine life in aquaria and live tanks with a continual flow of saltwater from Peterson Bay. These are well-stocked so visitors can enjoy the intertidal zone without leaving the deck of the building when tides are too high to walk on the beach.

Dan_in_China_PootRestrooms with composting toilets are located in a separate building accessible by boardwalk and outhouse facilities are located behind the field station.

Five 16' circular yurts located near the field station provide overnight lodging for school groups and for summer visitors who want to enjoy the magic of evenings in Peterson Bay and be on-hand for early morning minus tides. Campers have use of the Field Station kitchen with refrigerator, stove, microwave, coffee pot, dishes, and cooking utensils. A campfire pit and outdoor meeting area provides a great place for eating outside on sunny days and enjoying s’mores and stories around the campfire during overnight stays.


The Field Station is open from April 15 through early October.

Daily natural history tours are offered from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm running from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Naturalist Guides give you a unique, personal and memorable experience.

Overnight stays can be reserved and special residential programs and can be developed for group stays during the summer.

The Field Station is reserved for residential school field trip programs from mid-April through May and can be arranged for September-October.

Volunteer labor to open and close the Field Station and to assist with maintenance and construction projects is often needed.

The Field Station has a cell phone that is taken on the trails with all groups. In the unlikely event of a medical emergency, this can be used to summon boat, floatplane, or helicopter transportation to the Homer hospital a short distance away.

Peterson Bay Trail System

Peterson Bay Field Station is located on a narrow peninsula between Peterson Bay to the north and China Poot Bay to the south. Several miles of trails provide access to the coastal forest land that belongs to the Seldovia Native Association (SNA). The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies leases the land from SNA with the understanding that we will be caretakers of the land and guide visitors to respect and honor the land that has been used by their ancestors for thousands of years.  

Rich intertidal areas in both bays and the coastal forest are a short hike from the Field Station.

Coastal Forest Trails

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The coastal forest ecosystem is a magical place to visit, engaging all of your senses.  The smell of decaying wood, false azalea, and damp moss permeates the air arouses all our other senses as well. Northern 3-toed woodpeckers drum and Varied thrushes sing from the canopy and squirrels chatter from snaggly branches as you walk along soft forest trails.  Cool breezes blow from the surrounding bays as you ascend the Island Peninsula ridge, and, in late summer, tart blueberries dazzle your taste buds.

Bog Trail

Just 5 minutes from the field station, this fascinating area contains the sundew carnivorous plant, colorful flowers in June and July, and a variety of small evergreen plants. Guides interpret bog ecology and the bog/forest edge often provides glimpses of a variety of songbirds. A boardwalk runs throughout the bog for easy access.

Lost and Found Lake Trail (1-2 hours, ~1.2 miles, 200-foot elevation gain)

A moderate hike on a loop trail visits the bog, climbs the ridge of the Island Peninsula for stunning views and descends to a small lake. The trail meanders through the coastal forest where your guide will point out the flowering plants, mosses, lichens, shrubs, and trees that grow in a northern coastal temperate forest and interpret the ecology of this dynamic ecosystem.

Earthquake Point Trail (3-4 hours, ~2 miles round trip, 300-400 foot elevation gain)

Visitors interested in a more challenging hike may elect to hike to Earthquake Point, an overlook with beautiful vistas of Poot Peak and China Poot Bay.


A visit to the Wynn Nature Center provides an opportunity to compare forest ecology of the coastal and boreal forest "edge" communities.

Beach Trails

Beach hikes provide opportunities to view marine life, stunning Kachemak Bay, and unique geological formations including twisted sea cliffs and distant volcanoes.

Trails to China Poot Bay

Rich intertidal areas and a spectacular view of the Chugach Mountains is a Kenai Mountains are just a 20-30 minute walk from the Field Station. The low tide trail crosses a salt marsh and a ghost forest meadow, and when the tide comes in an upland forest trail is used.

Peterson Bay Outer Beach Trail

Boats arrive at the CACS dock opposite the Outer Beach or may land directly on the beach when the tide is extremely low. The gravel beach provides easy hiking to is an easy hike from the Field Station and Otter Rock's diverse intertidal community.  The beach is an excellent place to enjoy a relaxing picnic, explore natural rock formations, play games, or skip rocks. Depending on the tide, a slough crossing requires footgear that is either waterproof or can become muddy.


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