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Kenai Russian Historical Sites

The Russian Orthodox religion arrived in Alaska in 1741, with Vitus Bering. Fifty years later, in 1791, Russian traders landed at Kenai. They were followed by a Russian Orthodox monk four years later.

This log chapel, built in 1906 near the Holy Assumption Church, honors Father Igumen Nikolai, who started the first permanent parish in Kenai in 1845. He baptized 1,432 Kenaitze Indians. The Russians also inoculated Native people against smallpox, in 1860.

The visitor center in Kenai will give you information on a self-guided walking tour of Old Town Kenai, a cluster of Russian buildings behind the center.

+ Interested in Alaska's Russian Heritage? Check out the Ninilchik page.

Kenai Beginnings

Starting in 1888, the town served as a fish cannery. Canneries were in full swing until the Depression in the 1930's, providing cheap protein to people in the Lower 48.

A big breakthrough for Kenai came in 1957, when oil was discovered at nearby Swanson River. In 1962, a Chevron refinery was built just to the north. Today, Kenai is the largest city in the Kenai Peninsula.

At the Mouth of the Kenai River

Dipnetting for salmon is open to Alaska residents only. It’s a variant of a traditional way that Native people caught fish. Large nets are attached to long poles that are dragged through the water, hoping a salmon swims in.

Places to Fish in Kenai (Listed by River Miles)

A Mile 0 Bank fishing north side via Spruce Drive.
B Mile 6.5 Toilets, picnic tables from Beaver Loop Road.
C Mile 15.5 Hard to find small site. Restrooms for boaters.
D Mile 19 Hard to find, tables, toilets & trails.
E Mile 20.5 Popular bank fishing spot, camping.
F Mile 21 Stairway access behind visitor center by bridge.
G Miles 22 & 23 Soldotna stairs to river.
H Mile 30 Bank fishing north side along with camping.
I Mile 30.5 Small campground
J Mile 36.5 Moose River boat launch
K Mile 39.5 Boat launch & campground.

Fishing in Kenai

Swanson River fishing en route to Captain Cook Recreation Area.


About 10 miles up the Kenai Spur Highway you’ll reach a highly industrial area with gas and oil production facilities.

Then, 15 miles from Kenai is the town of Nikiski, with a population of 3,000.

Leaving Nikiski, you enter rolling lake country and pass over the Swanson River, coming from the canoe trail system north of Sterling.

At the end of the road, mile 39, is Captain Cook Recreation Area, with several campgrounds and beautiful oceanfront views.

+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat

kenai cultural and visitor center


Kenai Subway

Daniels Lake Lodge

Central Peninsula Hospital

+ Kenai River Fishing Map
+ Kenai, Sterling, & Soldotna Map
+ Map of Bearfoot Campgrounds

Teach A Man to Fish...
Four towns stretch out near the mouth of the Kenai River: Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski (feaured in this section). Each has its own personality, but they physically blend into each other in a way that almost makes them a single community right in the middle of terrific fishing country. Bordered by the ocean and the Kenai River, this is the home of giant halibut, salmon, and trout. There’s even a community college “Fishing Academy.”

on the Lower Kenai River

Sterling | Alaska homestead-style
community with a rural flavor.

Soldotna | Busy modern town. Easy salmon-fishing sites right downtown.

Kenai | Near the outlet of the Kenai River into the sea. Historic Russian churches and buildings.

Nikiski | Up the coast from Kenai.
Lakes and rolling hills. Recreation area.


This is the Lower Kenai, and when you’re in these waters, you’re getting close to the ocean. The closer you get to the ocean, the more the returning fish are influenced by the incoming tide, which tends to push them along.

Farther upriver, the fish will still run in schools, but they won’t be tide-based. Near Kenai, although some people fish from the bank, especially during red and silver runs, fishing for kings is primarily done from boats.

There are two types of boats: motor boats, which must be 35 hp or under, and driftboats. If you go fishing with a guide, you can choose either a drift or motor boat.

You should be aware that when fishing is good on this part of the Kenai, there will be a lot of boats in the water, especially on weekends.

Kenai Peninsula Information
Information to make a great vacation on the Kenai. Covers the whole peninsula.

Kenai, Alaska: Government
The official Government site for Kenai of Kenai, 'village with a past, city with a future.'

Kenai Chamber of Commerce
General information on Kenai. With an events calendar and business directory.

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