Kenai (Population: 6,975) is located on the Kenai Peninsula, 159 miles from Anchorage, 89 miles from Homer and 11 miles north of Soldotna. Visitor information: Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, 11471 Kenai Spur Highway, Kenai, AK 99611; Phone (907) 283-1991, Fax 283-2230 Kenai is the largest city on the Kenai Peninsula. Originally occupied by the Dena’ina people, the Russian traders established Fort St. Nicholas, or St. Nicholas Redoubt, in 1791. In 1869 the U.S. Army established Fort Kenai (Kenay). The first fish canneries were established in the 1880s. Oil exploration began in the mid-1950s, with the first major discovery made in 1957. Two years later, natural gas was discovered. Kenai is situated on a low rise overlooking the mouth of the Kenai River where it empties into Cook Inlet, with majestic views of 3 major volcanic peaks in the Alaska Range: Mount Spurr (elev. 11,100 feet); Mount Iliamna (elev. 10,016 feet; and Mount Redoubt (elev. 10,197 feet).
Soldotna (Population: 3,983) is located on the western Kenai Peninsula, 84 miles north of Homer, 148 miles from Anchorage and 95 miles from Seward via the Sterling Highway. Visitor information: Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce 44790 Sterling Highway, Soldotna, AK 99669; Phone (907) 262-1337 or 262-9814, Fax (907) 262-3566. The town of Soldotna was established in the 1940s because of its strategic location at the Sterling–Kenai Spur Highway junction. Soldotna was incorporated as a first-class city in 1967. It has become the retail, governmental and medical hub of the Peninsula. Soldotna gets very busy with visiting fishermen when the salmon are running in the Kenai River, which flows through town, and in nearby Kasilof River. All facilities are available in Soldotna, including supermarkets, banks, and drive-ins, medical and dental clinics, golf courses, a library, sports center and churches. Two shopping malls are located on the Sterling Highway in town.
Ninilchik (Population: 853) is located on the Kenai Peninsula, 45 miles north of Homer, 136 miles from Seward and 189 miles from Anchorage on the Sterling Highway. The original village of Ninilchik, referred to as Ninilchik Village, is reached by a side road from Milepost S 135.1 Sterling Highway. The highway community of Ninilchik provides all services. There is an active senior center, a library and swimming at Ninilchik High School pool. On Memorial Day weekend, Ninilchik is referred to as the third biggest city in Alaska, as thousands of Alaskans arrive for the fishing. A major halibut fishery off Ninilchik has produced some of the largest trophy halibut found in Cook Inlet, including a 466-lb. unofficial world record sport-caught halibut.
Sterling (Population: 5,123) is located on the Sterling Highway, 81 miles from Seward, 134 miles from Anchorage and 98 miles from Homer, at the confluence of the Moose and Kenai rivers. This unincorporated community serves the summer influx of Kenai River sportfishermen, campers and canoeists paddling the Moose and Swanson rivers. The name Sterling was formalized in 1954 when a post office was established. Sterling has a post office and a school. Traveler services include motels, RV parks, gas stations, several restaurants and cafes.
Anchor Point (Population: 1,829) Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Anchor Point is 23 miles north of Homer and 61 miles south of Soldotna on the Sterling Highway. Visitor Information: Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce P.O. Box 610, Anchor Point, AK 99556; Phone (907) 235-2600. Anchor Point is a full-service community with a Chamber of Commerce, post office and a variety of businesses, churches, a library, senior citizen center and VFW are among the many organizations here. Anchor Point was originally named “Laida” by Captain James Cook in the summer of 1778, when the Resolution and Discovery sailed into Cook Inlet looking for the Northwest Passage. It was later renamed Anchor Point by early homesteaders to commemorate the loss of an anchor off the point by Captain Cook. A post office was established here in 1949.
Old Town Kenai self-guided walking tour takes in Fort Kenay, the Russian Parish House Rectory, Russian Orthodox Church and chapel. Kenai is the home of the Kenai Peninsula Oilers, one of 6 teams that make up the Alaska Baseball League. Kenai Landing is a 1920s era salmon cannery renovated as a resort, with shops, galleries and restaurants. Views from bluff of fishing boats, volcanos and whales. Kenai River Flats is a must stop for bird-watchers. Great numbers of Siberian snow geese and other waterfowl stop to feed on this saltwater marsh in the spring. Kenai Shorebird Festival in May. Play golf at the 18-hole Kenai golf course. The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center has art exhibits and an excellent museum store. Stock up on fabric art supplies at Kenai Fabric Center and Quilt Kits of Alaska.
Several public fishwalks have been constructed in the Soldotna area, making the popular Kenai River more accessible to the public. Soldotna’s Homestead Museum features a wildlife display and some of the area’s early homestead cabins. Soldotna’s big summer event is the annual Progress Days, held in July, with a parade, a rodeo, community barbecues, quilt displays, and other events. The annual Kenai River Festival in June focuses on the recreational, economic and educational important of the Kenai River watershed and features free activities and educational displays for children and adults alike. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center has indoor dioramas containing lifelike mounts of area wildlife in simulated natural settings and an outdoor nature trail. Fish the Kenai River, one of Alaska’s best-known sportfishing rivers.
The Kenai Peninsula Fair, held the third weekend in August, is dubbed the “biggest little fair in Alaska.” it features the Peninsula Rodeo, a parade, horse show, livestock competition and exhibits. The King Salmon Fishing Derby is held from May to June 15. The Halibut Fishing Derby runs from Father’s Day through Labor Day. Well-known area for saltwater king salmon fishing and record halibut fishing.
Moose River Raft Race and Sterling Days are held in July. Canoeing the Swanson River Canoe Trail. Camping and fishing at recreation sites for Salmon and Rainbow Trout on the Moose, Swanson and Kenai rivers.
Camping and fishing along the Anchor River for King Salmon, Dolly Varden, silver salmon and steelhead. Saltwater fishing in Cook Inlet for all 5 species of salmon, halibut and rockfish. Beachcombing and wildlife watching at end of Anchor River (Beach) Road. Photograph the sign marking the most westerly point on the North American continent accessible by continuous road system and watch tractors launch and land fishing boats. Visit the nearby Russian village of Nikolaevsk
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