August and September are very special months on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground. By now the midnight sun is beginning to fade off and we are getting dark skies in the evening between about 11pm and 5am. Dipnetting has come to a close and the silvers are starting show us a good fight in the river. The fly fishing has also been incredible in the Russian River as well as throughout many other areas on the peninsula.
Photo by Courtney Stanley
We are enjoying the super warm high-70’s weather and are remembering to soak up the sunshine at every chance we get. In fact, come September 1st the realization that summer is on the “downward spiral” actually makes us get so die-hard that we want to get outside and go camping as frequently as possible. But if given the opportunity to pitch a tent versus staying in a hard-sided cabin, we’ll choose the cabin any day. These 14 public use cabins in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are an excellent way to enjoy wild, raw Alaska away from the majority of the tourism crowds. Check out the list below and if you want to book one, make sure to visit this website HERE through recreation.gov to make your online reservations today. Prices are between $35 and $45 per night. A smokin’ deal in the summertime!
Photo by Dan Logan, Flickr
1: Big Bay Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)
2: Big Indian Creek Cabin – Mystery Creek Road (accessible via aircraft, road currently closed)
3: Caribou Island Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)
4: Dolly Varden Lake Cabin – Swanson River Road (accessible via boat)
5: Doroshin Bay Cabin – Skilak Lake (accessible via boat)
6: Engineer Lake Cabin – Skilak Lake Road (accessible via hike-in, boat, or cross-country skiiing and snowshoeing in the winter)
7: Kelly Lake Cabin – Mile 68.1 Sterling Highway (accessible via short hike in)
8: McLain Lake Cabin – Off the Swanson River (accessible by the canoe trail, snowmachine or float plane)
9: Nurses Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)
10: Pincher Creek Cabin – Chickaloon Bay Tidal Flats (accessible via bush/float plane)
11: Pipe Creek Cabin – Tustumena Lake (accessible via boat)
12: Snag Lake Cabin – Cook Inlet area near Nikiski (accessible via float plane, ski plane, snowmachine)
13: Upper Ohmer Lake Cabin – Skilak Lake Road (accessible via hike-in)
14: Vogel Lake Cabin – Cook Inlet / Turnagain Arm (accessible via float plane, ski plane and snowmachine)
Please note that all the cabins are non-electric and many will require a boat to access. They are bare bones shelters that will require you to bring a warm sleeping bag, head lamp, fresh drinking water (or filtration system), safety gear and plenty of food. Make sure that anything you pack in you also pack out (meaning please do not leave any trash behind). By clicking on the link above to book these cabins, you can read the full descriptions of where each is located and what they offer. Many are even accessible all year long with snow-machine and cross country skiing access during the chilly, snowy winter months. Have fun out there, happy campers!
Head to Cooper Landing on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground for an epic hike or fly fishing adventure on the Russian River. It’s a beautiful time of year to get out and enjoy your stunningly beautiful backyard!
Or if you just want to enjoy a good hike and views of the river, you can always park at the campground or the confluence (aka the ferry) and enjoy a beautiful stroll riverside.
Another excellent hike in the area is the Russian River Falls trail. The trailhead is located in the campground turnout off the Sterling Hwy in Cooper Landing. This area is known for having lots of bear activity, however – so be careful and always be prepared for an unexpected sighting. The parking fee at the campground is $11 of a 12 hour day and you can fill your vehicle full of as many people as legally possible. So load up your friends/family and make it a point to check out this incredible area.
Fly fishing this time of year is quite the treat. During the weekdays you’ll notice that the crowds have begun to disperse and the area feels like the real, raw Alaska that you’ve surely come to fall in love with. You also might be incredibly surprised to learn that you very well might have the entire river to yourself.
This time of year, the river is filled with brilliantly colored salmon that are starting the spawning process. We even stumbled upon a huge king salmon on a low riverbed that was turned totally white and spawned out. It is a rare occurrence to see those huge fish so far upstream in the Russian River, but it is always cool sighting to behold. We started upstream and walked down over the course of about five hours. In most areas the water was only a couple feet deep so we were able to walk back and forth from each side and fish both banks thoroughly.
It’s pretty easy to fall in love with the Russian River. Unlike the Kenai, it is very shallow in many areas (especially the upper) and you can actually see into the water all the way to the bottom. The beautiful multi-colored rocks on the riverbed are very slippery, so it’s important to use extreme caution when in the water so that you don’t fall over.
Pretty frequently the bright red salmon would move quickly and splash up out of the water, which can also alarm you and throw you off a bit as you are meandering through the quick currents. We couldn’t stop catching fish! It was epic, to say the least. We hooked several nice little rainbows, but nothing too big in size. They are a blast to catch because they run like the wind and are very feisty.
We also had great success with dolly varden (dollies), grayling and even a couple beautiful silvers. We primarily used beads on a fly or threw a couple fly’s on there solo to switch it up every so often.
Everything was catch and release (this was definitely not a “meat run”), just a fun day with a little finesse and a fly rod.
In true Alaskan fashion, we fished until the very last moment and soaked up every ounce of sunlight. And luckily, we had a phenomenal sunset to close out a picture perfect day of fishing. Talk about one of those moments that make you have to *pinch* yourself because it’s almost unbelievable to live in such a stunningly beautiful place. So grateful to live in (truly) the most beautiful place in the last frontier!
Have you been fishing this summer? Where are your favorite spots to go on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground? We’d love to hear about all your epic adventures! Wishing you tight lines, water babies and adventure hounds!
All photos above are copyright of Loomis Sage Marketing will sole usage rights granted to KPTMC. If you’d like to use any, please inquire before hand. Thank you!
Leave Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage and head down to The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground to enjoy the most fun and exciting place in all of the last frontier. On your way down after you pass Girdwood and right before the Whittier turnoff is this magical place known as the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. AWCC is ‘dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education and quality animal care.’ Many animals here are rehabilitated before being re-introduced to the wild, while others look so happy that they will probably never want to leave.
The first thing we noticed was all of the little attention-to-detail features. The wildlife theme was carried about from start to finish (and every single place in between). We were also pleasantly surprised by how kind and educated the entire staff was (literally, everyone). Everyone was so nice and helpful and most importantly – enthused! To hear their experiences first hand and feel their love and dedication for the animals was so spectacular. This is truly one of the most incredible places in the entire 49th state.
Next we pulled up to the toll both area where we pay to enter. I believe it was $12.50 per person (adult) of which the money goes back to help feed and take care of the animals at the conservation center. Pretty good deal if you as us! We couldn’t help but love the wooden bear carvings as the sign that showed us all of the animals we were about to see, yippie!
As we pulled around to find a parking spot (which was hard – the place was totally packed), we noticed the bears over to the right. So of course, that was our first stop. BEARS! Eeeeek!
The observation bridge through the bear habitat was packed with people that were just like us – totally fascinated by the enormous mammals.
At one point in time all three bears gathered perfectly into the photo frame while the nibbled on grass and explored their backyard for all of us to swoon over.
The littlest of the three brown bears was actually the oldest (as told by one of the staff). We had to snap a photo because she was looking mighty good for her age!
On the other side were a couple of black bears. They were pretty much basking in the sun and completely ignoring all of the tourists that were gushing over how cute they are.
At one point in time this cutie woke up for a picture. As you can see, he is totally out of it. Shortly thereafter he went right back to sleep and continued ignoring us.
Next we headed over to check out the Musk Ox in the distance.
There was a great deal of education information about these ice age creatures and we were sure to get in plenty of reading while viewing them in the distance.
These stoic animals have such a strong and impressive disposition. Just look at that view… Alaska at it’s finest!
These stoic animals have such a strong and impressive disposition. Just look at that view… Alaska at it’s finest!
The deer and elk were both so fun to observe. Some moved slowly while dining on grass while other just basked in the warm sun.
And of course in true AWCC fashion, the informative signs provided us with a great deal of information including diet, size, weigh, habitat and reproduction.
In this photo you can (sort of) see a tiny little baby nestling next to the center tree. The babies were so adorable it made it very tough to leave. You could truly just sit and stare at them all day long.
We also really enjoyed seeing how these beautiful animals all gathered together like one big happy family. With the tall snow-capped mountains in the background, it made for the perfect photo-op.
We stopped for a good amount of time to take in the wood bison roaming about in the incredibly large (contained) field area.
These two (below) foraged on some grass and contemplated making a move to the other side to join the rest of the group.
The big guy was the first to cross to the other side, but first had to stop for a drink along the way.
Next we made a quick stop to admire the flower garden that doubled as a fork in the road.
We headed over to check out the moose and the small barn-like building with critters inside.
There is great information about moose, the climates they live in and how there antlers grow and shed.
The moose were just chillen out inside enjoying the cool shade in the building. Those antlers are beautiful (and they look so soft)!
On the other side was a couple smaller critters hanging out and enjoying a neat little space.
We snapped a fun photo of this small red fox posing for the camera and taking in the beautiful mountain view.
As we continued our tour inside the open barn area we came across this cool musk ox skull. Pretty fascinating history behind it as you can read below.
Displayed on the wall inside is this massive wood bison hid with information about it. It was actually quite soft to the touch and we would imagine it would keep you very, very warm on a chilly Alaska night.
On the way out we hopped back in the truck and took a journey by the caribou viewing area.
Otherwise known as “reindeer” – these animals are incredible to observe. And check out those beautiful velvety racks, simply stunning!
And in perfectly fitting Alaska fashion – an Alaska flag on the way out. Next to a reindeer cutout, of course!
But wait, there is more! On the other side – an American flag. The best of both worlds collide at the entrance/exit of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We love the little details and as we said before, this place doesn’t leave a single stone unturned.
Be sure to put this magical place on your bucket list before summer is over and winter rolls around. It truly is a place that guarantees endless smiles as you fall in love with the incredible amounts of wildlife that roam the last frontier.
All photos above are taken by Courtney Stanley and copyright of Loomis Sage Marketing with sole usage rights granted to KPTMC. If you’re interested in using any, please inquire with us directly.
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