Central Kenai Peninsula
By Radu Marculescu
Conveniently located 50 miles south of Anchorage, Central Kenai Peninsula is a breathtaking place with plenty of outdoor opportunities and site seeing. Central Kenai Peninsula is considered by the state's residents as "Alaska 's playground." Kenai Peninsula is one of the most popular and very accessible destinations in Alaska. The main reason Alaskans and visitors alike come to Central Kenai is world-class fishing, wildlife and scenery. The Central Kenai Peninsula is Alaska's hotbed of sport fishing!
The major communities of Central Kenai Peninsula can be reached by two well maintained highways: the Seward Highway, a National Scenic Byway and Sterling Highway in a dayís drive by car, RV or even bicycle! By air, it takes 30 minutes to fly from Anchorage to the Kenai airport where car rentals are offered at the counters inside of the airport. Several visitors explore the area from one of the many campgrounds dispersed along the peninsula. Kenai, Soldotna, Anchor Point, Ninilchik, Clam Gulch, and Kasilof have waterfront campgrounds that are overcrowded during salmon runs and the rest of the summer.
It is an absolutely amazing trip to get to the City of Kenai. On your way to Kenai, as you are driving along the Sterling Highway you are traveling in an Alaska in miniature through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Geologically speaking, the area is relatively young. About 10,000 years ago the refugeís area was covered by glacial ice. The ice retreated uncovering the present lands. The remains of glacial cover still exist at the refuge east side in the Kenai Mountains where the famous Harding Icefield is located and partially extended within the Kenai Fjords National Park. The refuge is endowed with all Alaska ís incredible natural features and overwhelming presence of wilderness. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge contains a range of unattached ecosystems offering unique landscapes, flora and fauna. In this area, Central Kenai is bisected by the world famous sharp turquoise colored Kenai River, the home to world record King salmon.
There is no other place in the state where such a sensational combination of Alaska ís natural beauties can be found. Every year, more than a half a million visitors come from around the world on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to enjoy fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, power boating, canoeing, river rafting, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, hunting and photography. The dominant activity is fishing followed by other outdoor activities with hunting at the end. By visitorsí number, after the Inside Passage and Denali National Park and Preserve, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is the third Alaska ís top travel destination.
The City of Kenai is the economic center of the Central Kenai Peninsula. Located outside the western border of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, next to Cook Inlet and at the mouth of Kenai River, Kenai is a famed All America City. Kenai has long and interesting history of Kenaitze and Russian settlements. The City of Kenai was incorporated in 1960 and its important growing industries include oil, natural gas, commercial fishing and tourism. Kenai offers outstanding views of Cook Inlet and three active volcanoes of the northernmost point of the "ring of fire" as part of the Chigmit Mountains: Mount Iliamna, Mount Redoubt, and Mount Spur.
As a fisherman, Kenai can be the ideal place to start your unforgettable power boat guided fishing trip from Cunningham Park where Les Anderson, long resident of Soldotna - the King salmon world record holder, started his historic fishing trip in May, 1985. The world record King salmon is displayed at the Soldotna Visitor Center located close to the Kenai River site where the 97.4 pound fish was captured. Additionally, the park is one of the few areas in the Lower Kenai River providing public access for bank fishing.
Visit www.kenaipeninsula.org to get the most recent Discovery Vacation Guide. The guide provides detailed information on lodging, fishing charters, tour guided services and packages for various activities and attractions.
If you plan a Central Kenai vacation to get it at its best here are some tips:
- Plan to stay one week in Kenai or longer to visit Central Kenai. May to September is the best time to go to visit Kenai.
- Use an internet connection or a travel company to book in advance transportation and lodging.
- Make Kenai your starting point for traveling the area.
- Dress appropriately. Weather is unpredictable in Alaska. The average summertime temperature in Central Kenai is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures are ranging from 15 to 35 degrees. The coldest days of the year can have lows two digits below zero.
- After arriving in Anchorage rent a car and get to Kenai.
- Buy your fishing license online from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website at http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/ with the addition of a king salmon fishing stamp. Also get a free brochure of current fishing regulations provided by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for information on seasons, closures, limits, and methods. Plan your fishing trip with the tide book in hand. Go halibut fishing and clamming at low tides or minus tide. Watch for big tides that carry salmon upstream when you go salmon fishing. The Alaska pocket size tide books are free in big stores like Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer.
- Stop in at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on Ski Hill Road, Soldotna. Call 907-262-7021 or visit their website http://kenai.fws.gov to get information regarding your trip into the wilderness, refuge trails, special use permits and regulations.
- Visit the Visitor Information Center in Soldotna. The center is located on the banks of the Kenai River after you cross the Kenai River going toward Homer at 44790 Sterling Highway. For information call 907-262-9814. There is inside a lot of wildlife displays that include a black bear, wolverine, bald eagle, mountain goat, King crab and several species of birds, and the world record King salmon. Also, you will find an extensive photo display of pictures from around the Kenai Peninsula. The Soldotna Visitor Information has brochures, visitor guides, and maps to help plan your fishing trip to the Kenai River. Soldotna is well known as a sport fishing base of operations for having expert guides with excellent fishing abilities who help visiting anglers find and catch trophy King salmon as well as other fish species.
- Go fishing with a guide! Be in Kenai for the King salmon fishing season which starts late May. For more details and early booking you can go to the following web sites: http://www.kenairiverking.com, e-mail Kenai River King at info@KenaiRiverKing.com for information call Danny Paulk at 907-262-5483 or write to Danny Paulk, 45964 Paulk Avenue, Soldotna AK 99669-9771
- Follow the guide of fishing seasons for other fish species from the Kenai River King web site and plan accordingly your fishing trip on the Kenai River or other streams from Central Kenai or even Cook Inlet. Cook Inlet, from Bluff Point to Ninilchik River-Deep Creek, provides an excellent King and silver salmon fishing at various times of the summer. In Cook Inlet most charters from Anchor Point to Deep Creek offer "combo" trips to catch salmon and halibut. Also, fishing for Kings and silvers are very popular in streams such as Anchor River, Deep Creek and Ninilchik River. Swanson River and the Swanson River Canoe System is a fly fisherman's paradise and provide excellent fishing for silver salmon, red salmon and rainbow trout.
- Check out the special deals for an Alaskan fishing vacation at Angler Lodge - a full-service lodge. Visit Angler Lodge web site at: http://www.anglerslodge.com
- Fish one of Alaska 's well known salmon fishing areas located on Upper Kenai River between Skilak and Kenai Lakes at the Kenai and Russian Rivers confluence. Every year during the red salmon run hundreds of anglers flock to the area. At the Kenai River mile 73.5, the site is accessible by car. It has parking, restrooms, picnic tables and adjacent camping. If you stay longer look for accommodation at the Gwinís Lodge in Cooper Landing. Reservation is recommended. You can visit their web site at: http://www.gwinslodge.com. Read fishing regulations before you go! They are specific for this area of the Kenai River.
- Visit the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center located on 11471 Kenai Spur Highway. For information call 907-283-1991. The center maintains notable art gallery exhibits. Visitor guides and a very useful set of Kenai area maps are also available, and you can browse or purchase. Look for air charter and fishing guide services providing the outstanding fishing for Alaska salmon, rainbow trout, and halibut, flightseeing over Alaska's world famous glaciers and Cook Inlet or bear viewing around the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
- Relax at the Historic Kenai Landing in Kenai. There you can find a past atmosphere of an authentic 90 years old salmon cannery renovated as a multi use lodging facility with hotels, cabins, suites, RV spots, dock facilities, commercial fish processing, restaurant, bar, activity center and an indoor marketplace with numerous retail shops and galleries full of local art, food and crafts. Visitors enjoy on-site salmon fishing or dipnetting during the red salmon run and magnificent views of the Kenai River waterfront as well as the volcanos across Cook Inlet. Historic Kenai Landing is located on 2101 Bowpicker Lane, Kenai. For more information call 907-335-2500 or visit their web site at www.kenailanding.com
- Visit the personal use dipnetting area at the mouth of the Kenai River. This is one great thing about living in Alaska. Once a year for just three weeks Alaska residents are allowed to use dipnets to harvest red salmon. Be prepared to go. It is fun to see how hundreds of dipnetters harvest more than 295,000 reds from the Kenai River annual return of 3.3 million fish. The popular dipnetting annual event at the mouth of the Kenai River starts in the second week of July.
- Take a self-guided walking tour of Old Town Kenai doted with historical buildings among the oldest in Alaska.
- If you are a bird watcher visit the Kenai Flats State Recreation Site. The site is located on south side of Kenai River on Bridge Access Road. Nearby a herd of caribou can be often seen around the Warren Ames Bridge.
- Drive to Captain Cook State Park at the end of Kenai Spur Highway. The gorgeous views of Cook Inlet, the Chigmit Mountains and on a clear day a glimpse of Denali are breathtaking.
- Fly with Natron Air located at the airport in Soldotna to the West Side of Cook Inlet for bear viewing, and photography. For information visit their web site at: http://www.natronair.com
There is no doubt your trip to Central Kenai Peninsula will fill your mind and soul with memories for a lifetime!
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