Take a trip to a place where the wild things are
Do your vacation plans include whale watching, king salmon fishing or spotting bald eagles? Then you'll want to motor to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska's south-central region.
The Kenai Peninsula, located about 150 miles south of Anchorage and between the Prince William Sound and the Cook Inlet, has some of the best wildlife viewing, sport fishing and art communities in the state.
Fourteen small towns dot the landscape on the peninsula, and each offers a unique Alaskan experience. You'll want to start your exploration at the end of Route 1, the Sterling Highway, which incidentally marks the end of the paved highway system in North America.
The end of the road is also home to Homer, Alaska. One of the larger communities on the peninsula, Homer has lots to do to keep visitors busy.
Take a walk along the Homer Spit, which was voted one of North America's 100 best beaches by USA Today. Here you'll be able to see whales breaching, otters playing and puffins walking along the beach.
Homer is, of course, a fishing community and home to the Time Bandit, the king crab fishing ship featured on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. If you would like to try your hand at catching the big one, there are numerous charter boat businesses that can give you the opportunity to fish the crystal blue waters of Kachemak Bay and pull out an award winning halibut.
Speaking of Halibut, just 12 miles across the bay sits a small community that can only be reached by boat and makes an amazing side trip for anyone visiting Homer. In the early 1900s, Halibut Cove was home to over 1,000 residents, all in the herring business. Today, only 23 people call Halibut Cove home. Artisans, craftsmen and one very fine restaurant occupy the 12-block boardwalk, where arts and crafts welcome visitors to the tiny community. Two ferries transport visitors, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, always offering the catch of the day from a few of the commercial fishermen that still tieup in the cove.
Just a few miles north of Homer is the most westerly point in North America accessible by a continuous road—Anchor Point, Alaska. Anchor Point was named for Captain James Cook, who lost an anchor in the swift tidal currents that are common to the point. View the scenery on an observation deck situated at this extreme western point. Visitors can peer through telescopes into the wilderness, and on a clear day, sightseers can spy the cones of four volcanoes across Cook Inlet.
Anchor Point is known for the sport fishing. Anglers begin their trek to Anchor Point around Memorial Day when the king salmon season opens. Fishermen will also find Dolly Varden, silver salmon and steelhead trout common to the waters off Anchor Point.
At the intersection of the Sterling Highway and the Kenai Spur Highway is the fastest growing city on the Kenai Peninsula—Solodtna, Alaska.
The Kenai River lazily flows through the center of the city, luring anglers to its banks for the next record-making catch. Amazingly, folks who fish the Kenai River don't get too excited about king salmon that weigh less than 75 pounds. In fact, in 1985, a local angler snagged a king salmon that took him over an hour to pull in, only to realize his net wasn't big enough to haul the monster out of the water, so he dragged the fish to shore. This might sound like a fish story to tell around the campfire, but the proof is hanging on the wall of the Solodtna Visitors Center. You can view the 97.2-pound fish daily.
Many of the campgrounds in the city are within a block of the river and offer bank fishing. There are also charter guide services that help visitors to experience Alaska fishing at its best.
Sterling, Alaska, namesake of the highway that carries visitors to points on the peninsula, is a wonderful town catering to outdoor enthusiasts who are getting ready to take on the two-million acres of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. There are plenty of campgrounds where you can set up your base camp and then set out into the park.
In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt set aside land as the Kenai National Moose Range as a way to protect moose from market hunters. In 1980, the area was expanded and renamed the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors can see moose, caribou, wolverine, wolves, black and brown bears and lynx on their journeys.
Wildlife on the Water
The best way to view the wildlife is by canoe. Within the Kenai National Wildlife refuge are 120 miles of canoe routes. The most popular is the Swan Lake Route, which covers 60 miles and 30 lakes and connects to Moose River. Another great scenic route is the Swanson River Route, which encompasses 80 miles, and 40 lakes and ends at Cook Inlet.
No matter where you go on the Kenai Peninsula, you'll find fabulous full-hookup campgrounds. Some will be overlooking water, others viewing the old alpine forests. All are relaxing and will offer you the experience of a lifetime. Start planning your Alaska dreams by visiting www.kenaipeninsula.org, you won't regret it.
Did you know?
On the Kenai Peninsula, the average number of square miles per person is 0.3. In New York City, there are 0.003 square miles per person.
For More Information:
Kenai Visitor and Convention Bureau
Alaska Travel Industry Association