Shall We Gather at the River
Cooper Landing is a friendly roadside town on the Kenai River where the stream starts from the turquoise waters of Kenai
Lake. Two world-class salmon streams – the Kenai and Russian Rivers – meet here. The surrounding countryside is beautiful. Salmon
fishing in Cooper Landing is excellent. Fly-fishing in September is also good.
(Photo, Alaska Clearwater)
What Can You Find in Cooper Landing?
Cooper Landing is a group of stores, outfitters, and lodging establishments that runs along the Kenai River west of
Kenai Lake. It’s around 40 miles northwest of Seward on the Sterling
The area is named after Joseph Cooper, who found gold here in 1884. Buildings hug the road. Cooper Landing was isolated
for quite awhile. The original “road” was the Resurrection Trail, which passes through
Cooper Landing on its way from the town of Hope on Turnagain Arm to the town of Seward on Resurrection Bay.
It wasn’t until 1938 that an actual automobile road was built to Seward. And you couldn’t drive to Anchorage
Fishing on the Russian River
The best salmon fishing in the world happens right here in Cooper Landing.
There are two places to fish the Russian River.
The first is accessed from the Russian River Campground, at mile 52.6.
(Area "C" in the regulation book)
The second is where the Russian River enters the
Kenai River. This is called the "Sanctuary Area". This is accessible
via the Russian River Ferry at mile 55.
Check the regulations
which have a special page for fishing the Russian River. This great
fishery also is subject to emergency changes in the season and bag
limits so check locally or at the ferry.
(Photo, Alaska Clearwater)
In Cooper Landing: You'll Ride the Russian River Ferry
Fishermen use the Russian River Ferry to get across to the other side of the river at the Russian River Campground.
It’s a nominal fee for the journey.
They say that Teddy Roosevelt rode an earlier version of the ferry (similar to the old one next to Gwin’s Lodge)
when he visited Alaska.
The Russian River
Russian River opens for fishing in mid-June, when the first red salmon
arrive. A second run of reds arrives in mid to late July, and you can
fish for silvers in the middle of August. The fish don’t necessarily
run way out in the river. They may be right at your feet. Use care when
casting with someone near you.
Brings Out The Kid In Us
If your kids are on the bank, make sure they’re out of range of any backcasts.
The Kenaitze Indians fished the Kenai and Russian Rivers.
Not surprisingly, they had a large fishing camp where the Russian River Ferry now operates. They caught their fish with
dipnets, weirs, and traps.
There are two places in Cooper Landing where you can learn more about the early Native residents of the region.
One is right across from the Russian River Campground, at mile 52. The other is just down the road, at mile 53.7.
Local people still heavily rely on salmon.
to Avoid Bears
Bears like to eat salmon. So you’ll find them along salmon streams.
If you see a bear, make noise and give the bear a wide berth. It’s their country – and their food source.
Getting very close to a grizzly is nothing to brag about. People are seriously mauled by bears nearly every year in
(Photo, Gary Lackie, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)
+ For more about bears, check out the Alaska Wildlife section.
Out on the Kenai River
There are a number of places to put in your boat, raft, kayak or canoe into the Kenai River.
Two of the more popular ones are the state park boat launch, right by the bridge at mile 48, at the end of Kenai Lake.
Boaters also put in at the Russian River Ferry boat launch.
+ Print out the Kenai River Fishing Map.
a Fishing Guide
There are numerous restrictions on boat and motor use, as well as changeable fishing regulations. You’ll feel
more confident if you go out with a guiding service here before attempting this trip on your own.
Because you can’t use motors on the Upper Kenai River, you won’t be able to get back upstream to where you
This means you’ll
have to have two vehicles or use a shuttle service.
Jim’s Landing is the most widely used public take out point. Parking is limited,
but there’s a nice graveled, flat launch to the river.
Be aware before you go further down the river that there is Class 2 and Class
3 whitewater ahead, and you’ll have to go all the way to Upper Skilak Lake Campground to take out.
and Release Rainbow Trout Fishing
The Upper Kenai is famous for its rainbow fishery, which is basically catch and release.
This means you must
get a copy of the Sport Fishing Regulations. You can find them on the web at:
The regulations are complicated, so check at local sports shops to make sure there isn’t
an emergency closure or regulation in effect.
It’s important to handle rainbows that you are releasing carefully. Follow the technique
used in the photo above if you want to take a picture of your catch.
Protect Alaska’s rainbow population.
(Photo, Alaska Clearwater)
historic cabins, the 1920’s era Cooper Landing post office, and the
1955 Cooper Landing Schoolhouse, have been turned into a museum at Mile
48.7 Sterling Highway. Up until several years ago, you would have
mailed your letters from the old post office. The school was used until
The museum is open Wednesdays through Mondays in the afternoon, and is staffed by local
volunteers, so this is a good place to meet local people.
You May Need to Go Out With A Fishing Guide
Even the rules about fishing with beads are complicated.
For Rainbow and Dollies
Rainbow trout and dolly varden follow returning salmon, first feeding on the salmon roe that float downstream,
and then on pieces of salmon as they fall apart after spawning.
In the Kenai River and its tributaries,
you’ll find people fishing with beads and flies that imitate salmon
eggs, as well as flies like the flesh-colored flies on the left, that
mimic salmon flesh. These rabbit fur flies come in varying colors,
faded orange to dull white. They come as single flies, or as two flies
tied together (“articulated.”)
Open Door Policy
Alaska is becoming more modernized by the year. But, in some of the more remote rural places, where you know every neighbor,
there is still not much need for a lock. Cooper Landing is a place like that
trapper’s cabins have been left, stocked for emergency use by anyone
going by. The visitor’s job is to add firewood, replace any food if
possible, leave things better than you found them – and put the spoon
back in the door latch.
Walkways, Boardwalks, and Boat Launches
Boardwalks and walkways are in use in Cooper Landing and elsewhere in the Kenai to protect riverbanks and waterfronts.
The Cooper Landing boat
launch has a scenic viewing platform and telescopes. Right next door is the Chamber information center.
+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat
COOPER LANDING BUSINESSES
COOPER LANDING, ALASKA MAPS AND FEATURES:
+ Map of Cooper Landing and Surrounding Area
+ Map of Skilak Lake, Road & Trails
+ Map of Resurrection Trail
+ Kenai River Fishing Map
+ Map of Bearfoot Campgrounds
Public Use Areas on the Upper Kenai River
• Mile 48 / State Park Boat Launch
Just past bridge on north side.
• Mile 50.5 / Cooper Creek Campground
Both sides of the road.
• Mile 52.6 / Russian River Campground
Very large campground with steep stairways.
• Mile 55 / Russian River Ferry Parking, boat launch and ferry access across the Kenai River.
• Mile 58 / Refuge Information Center
Large parking area, toilets, and small contact center.
• Mile 58 / Skilak Lake Road
Turn south to go to Jim’s Landing on Skilak Lake Road. This is the most
used take out for the upper Kenai River. Past Jim’s Landing, the river
runs through the more difficult Kenai River Canyon and then to Skilak
Lake, where outboard motors can be used. Skilak Lake Road continues for
19 miles. It has several campgrounds and trail access.
While in Cooper Landing, Don't Miss...
• Turquoise Kenai Lake
• The Russian River Ferry
• Cooper Landing Museum
• Rafting the Kenai River
• Native cultural historical sites
• The world’s finest fishing
Q: How Far is Cooper Landing from Anchorage?
A: The town is located 100 miles from Anchorage.
Not one, but two great rivers to fish… the Kenai and Russian Rivers. The historic Resurrection Trail from
Hope to Seward passes through it.
It's an old fashioned summer tourist community, with lots of cabins, fishing services, tackle and outfitters.
RUSSIAN RIVER FALLS HIKE
Here’s an easy hike on a wide trail.
at Russian River Campground at Mile 52 of the Sterling Highway. Follow
the hiking trail 2 miles on gradual grades to Russian River Falls.
Along the way, you may see spruce grouse, eagles, moose and other
reach two viewing platforms and a boardwalk that looks down on the
Russian River and leaping salmon. To access the trail, use the Lower
Russian Lake Trail parking area. It’s 2.5 miles in on the campground
road. A longer 12 mile trail that lead to Upper Russian Lake starts at
mile 1 on the campground road.
(Photo of falls above, Bob Siter, Gwin's Lodge)
This former gold rush trail from Seward to Hope crosses through Cooper Landing.
The trail has a north and south section. The northern section is a little over 19 miles and runs from Hope
to Cooper Landing. The trail continues south of Cooper Landing along the Russian River.
This Russian Lakes Trail branches with part going over to Cooper Lake, and on to Kenai Lake, and another
branch going down the Resurrection River to mile 8 of the Exit Glacier Road.
There are ranger stations in Girdwood and Seward. Call 907-224-3374 to get detailed information and maps.
You can also download the Bearfoot Resurrection Trail Map here.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
The official website of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Natural
history, visitor information, environmental education, wildlife, and