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Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Two million acres of thick vegetation and some of the world’s best salmon streams.

The Skilak Lake area includes many trails and campgrounds.

North of Sterling in the refuge, you’ll find the Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe trails.

Izaak Walton Boat Launch

The Moose River meets the Kenai River at Sterling. Woven coconut husk, elevated stairways, and metal walkways are visible along the river in this part of the Kenai Peninsula.

The riverbanks are important to the ecosystem of the river and salmon production in particular because grasses along the banks harbor insects and the small salmon fry that live here.

At least 160 private landowners are helping with revegetation projects.

Please observe the plastic flagging and notices along the riverbanks.

Canoe Trails

This is one of America’s great canoe trail systems.

Trips by canoe over the Swan Lake and Swanson River trails can take up to a week.

You have to register at one of three entrances.

On the trip, you may spot beaver, moose, black or brown bear, lynx, land otters, waterfowl, eagles and loons. Plan ahead.

Fresh Salmon in Sterling, Alaska

Cleaning salmon at 10:30 pm in a Sterling


+ Places to Go + Things to Do
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat

swanson river canoe trails

+ Map: Sterling and Surrounding Area
+ Map: Skilak Lake, Road & Trails
+ Kenai River Fishing Map
+ Map: Swan Lake Canoe Trail
+ Map: Swanson Canoe Trail

Teach A Man to Fish...
Four towns stretch out near the mouth of the Kenai River: Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski. 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.


You can fish for kings, reds and silvers in the waters near Sterling.

There is public access to the Kenai River at Bing’s Landing (mile 80), Izaak Walton (mile 82), and Morgan’s Landing (turn at Scout Lake Loop Road, mile 85).

Fishing on Kenai rivers is controlled by Fish & Game, which makes its decisions based on sonar counts of returning salmon.

When the salmon counts are high enough, Fish & Game opens the river to fishing. At times, you must release fish over or under a certain size.

Openings and closures can change daily, so it’s wise to check before fishing.

The Kenai Sports Fishing Association encourages the release of the very largest king salmon, so they can produce offspring.

Swanson River Canoe Trail
Swanson Canoe Trail information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. | Alaska Travel & Vacation Information by Bearfoot Travel Guides
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