My Great Alaska Adventure #4-Kenai Peninsula and Homer, Alaska
Adventure #4 is One Of My Favorites -The Kenai Peninsula and Homer, Alaska
This adventure actually starts at mile 37.7 of the Seward Highway. Go back to Adventure #1 starting from Anchorage for the details of the first part of this trip. This is the Junction to the sterling Highway which starts at mile 37.5.
You actually have two options here, you can travel on down the Seward Highway to mile 37.3 and turn right to go by Tern Lake which was included in the Seward Adventure or you can take the right ramp at mile 37.7 and bypass Tern Lake going towards the Kenai Peninsula.
From here you will see Dave’s Creek at mile 39.6 and Quartz Creek at mile 40.8. These creeks are great fishing creeks for Trout. Always check Alaska Fish And Wildlife regulations specific to the area you want to fish.
It was on just such a fishing trip in 1973 that I had my first run in with a moose. I know this probably sounds a little crazy but I was working my way through the heavy willows with my head down watching where I stepped as there were many holes and limbs to step over. All of a sudden my head bumped into something soft and hairy. I looked up and to my surprise I had bumped into a Cow moose with two very young calves.
As I stood there almost paralyzed I suddenly realized what I had done and noticed that her nostrils were flaring and the hair on her back standing straight up! I started to back away very slowly and fortunately the two baby moose were right under her belly.
After I backed away about 10 yards the lure on my rod and reel caught up on a limb. I just kept backing up with a rod in my hand and the brake on the real singing. To this day I do not know why I did not just drop the rod and reel. After I was about 20 yards away I started to run. You could hear the reel singing, zing, zing, zing with every step. A friend of mine who was down the creek just a little ways thought I had caught a huge fish and came running. We actually ran face first into each other on the trail. I was almost speechless with my mouth open pointing back toward where I had been. I was finally able to yell “moose”! We both ran back to the creek and waited for a few minutes. I was finally able to tell my friend what had happened. His first question was “why didn’t you just drop the rod?” My only answer was “you weren’t there”.
Anyway, from here you will notice the mountains to your right which are famous for sightings of Dall sheep. Keep your eyes out and have your binoculars ready.
The Sunrise Inn will be on your left at mile 44.9. This is a great place to stop and eat or have a great piece of pie. In 1971 I spent two weeks here manning the Cooper Lake power plant as the IBEW operators were on strike and I was a salaried engineer for the power company and it was my responsibility to take care of the plant during the strike. It was a fun time and I can tell you that the locals in this area really like to party especially in the winter and early spring as there’s nothing else really to do. In fact several of the guys with the IBEW and I become pretty good friends. The extent of their picket line was a concrete block with their strike sign stuck in it.
At mile 45 you will see the Kenai Lake. From here you are entering some of the best fishing areas in the state of Alaska.
The highway crosses the end of Kenai Lake and the headwater of the infamous Kenai River at mile 47.8.
There are a multitude of campgrounds, fishing guides, float trip operators, stores, restaurants, lodges, and great views in this area. Hamilton’s will be on your right.
Harold Hamilton was also an IBEW operator for the power company that I mentioned earlier. When I first arrived to man the power plant I had to go and get the keys from Harold. He invited me in and said just to show goodwill I needed to have a drink with him. I said okay, just one would not hurt anything. After all, I wanted to keep the peace. He walked over and picked up a bottle of Russian vodka and poured me a full glass of straight vodka and sat down and said “salute”. As soon as I was able to leave, I went right back to the Sunrise Inn and went straight to bed.
At mile 50.5 you will see the Cooper Lake Campground on your left. This is known as Loop B. At mile 50.6 is also Cooper Lake Campground Loop B. The following video was taken from the banks of the Kenai River on this Campground, Loop B.
From here you will be following the Kenai River. One of the heaviest salmon fished places in Alaska is at the confluence of the Russian River with the Kenai River at mile 54.8. Red salmon enter this area about the second week of June for the first run and mid-July for the second run which is the largest of the two.
At Sportsman’s Point Landing there is a public ferry which is privately owned and has a fee, to transport fisherman across the Kenai River to the best fishing areas. When I first came to Alaska, there were usually 20 to 30 fisherman at one time fishing for these red salmon. Over the course a few years, it went from a few to hundreds. It got to the point where I do not like fishing in this area, because the crowds. In fact, it got to the point sometimes of pure chaos and people actually fighting over fish. A friend of mine and I would go down to the river and set in our chairs, drink a beer, and watch the entertainment. Check up-to-date Fishing regulations before fishing.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is at mile 57.9. There is a lot of good information if you’re interested in Alaska wildlife.
The Skilak Lake Loop Road, starts at mile 58. This area was totally burned in the infamous Kenai Burn. Now the area is abundant with wildlife especially moose. Always be on the lookout for these moose crossing highways and always have your camera ready. There also, black bear.
You will be going by many lakes and streams as you traverse the Kenai Peninsula. Most of these lakes and streams are great for fishing for salmon, Dolly varden, rainbow trout, and in some cases, Arctic Grayling.
Moose River is at mile 81.5. This is a great fishing river, and if you like canoeing or drift fishing, you may want to check with some of the local outfitters for directions and rentals. Make sure you are well acquainted with the Alaska Fish and Wildlife regulations.
You will see the Swanson River Road at mile 83.4. This is also a great place for fishing and canoeing.
Note: There are numerous campgrounds and lodges scattered throughout the Kenai Peninsula. Always check on the regulations and fees for campgrounds.
It was along this stretch of road that we were very fortunate in being able to watch a pair of Bald Eagles give a flying lessons to their young. We watched them for about three hours and in the end watched the two young Eagles fly off on their own. It was an experience we will never forget.
At mile 95.2, you will reach the city of Soldotna, Alaska. This is a fairly good-sized community and all your needed services are available including restaurants, hotels, resorts, guides, outfitters, service stations, grocery stores, and all of the other services.
There are several guides and outfitters that are available to help you fish for the infamous Kenai River King Salmon. I was very fortunate to have found one of the better fishing guides, and in 1984 I caught a 76 pound King Salmon in the second week of July. Also, on one of my May fishing trips the world record King Salmon that weighed 97+ pounds was caught and I actually got to see that fish while it was hanging and before it was mounted.
The first run of King Salmon is usually during the end of May, and the first two weeks of June. While this has the most abundant number of fish, the second run in mid-July has the larger “Golden Kings.” That is when the world record was caught.
There is a great fish walk at the Soldotna visitor center.
Also, if you want to take the time, be sure and go to Kenai Landing. It is at the mouth of the Kenai River. This was the site of an authentic 1920s salmon cannery. Now, you will find art, history, entertainment, sport and commercial fishing nearby, all in a waterfront sitting. You can browse through the many shops and galleries in the restored 1922 Marketplace. You will also find fresh Alaska seafood and a locally brewed beer at Sockeye’s Restaurant and Bar. At mile 95.8, You’ll need to go West on Kalifonski Beach Road (past bridge access road) 8.3 miles to Cannery Road, turn right and drive 1.5 miles to Kenai Landing.
You can visit their website for a virtual tour www.KenaiLanding.com.
You could spend several days on the Kenai Peninsula Peninsula, and still not see it all. On this particular venture, we are going to continue on bypassing many, many interesting places. If you have unlimited time, you can decide if you want to take all the different side roads to these places.
From here, we will continue on down The Sterling Highway passing several rivers, creeks and lakes. You will notice many places on your right where You will be getting
a fantastic view of the mountain range on the other side of Cook Inlet. You may even notice steam coming out of some of these mountains. Several of them are actually active volcanoes, including Mount St. Augustine, Redoubt, and Illiamna. A clear day brings some fantastic photo ops from several places along this stretch of the Sterling Highway.
If you are a clam digger, Clam Gulch at mile 117.4 is for you. This is one of the best Razor Clam digging areas in the world. If you know what you’re doing, you can dig your limit of clams without ever getting off your knees. There is an art to digging clams. Observation is the best teacher. If you see someone on their knees, and have several holes dug around them and many clams in their bucket, they are probably experienced clam diggers. I would recommend watching them while studying their technique. As for as I am concerned, fried razor clams can’t be beat. You’ll need a tide book to check for minus tides as this is the best time to dig for clams. There are regulations for digging clams so check them before you start.
You will reach Ninilchik at mile 117. This is also a great place for digging clams and fishing for king salmon at the mouth of the river where it flows into the Cook Inlet. You can actually camp right on the beach.
The next stop is probably one of my all-time favorites. At mile 137.2, you will see the access to the Deep Creek State Recreation Area. You can camp down the beach, dig for razor clams, which are huge in this area during minus low tides, fish for king salmon at the end of May through the middle of June and in the middle of July, and my favorite, observing, bald eagles during their mating rituals.
You can drive down The Deep Creek Access Road to the beach and at the turn to the campground, there is a small gravel like road that turns to the left. Follow this a little ways down the beach and start looking ahead, on the beach and up on the cliffs for bald eagles. If you’re lucky, you will get to see some fantastic sightings of these eagles. I just hope you brought your video camera. As of right now, not very many people know about this area for bald eagles so you will be pretty much alone.
One of the best steelhead trout fishing rivers in the world is at mile 157.1. It is the Anchor River. The only problem is that the best time to fish for steelhead is in February and March. There is still plenty of trout fishing in this river.
As you approach Homer, Alaska at mile 169.6 is one of the most panoramic, beautiful views in Alaska. From here you will be able to see all the way from the Westside of the Cook Inlet, including Mount St. Augustine, all the way to the tip of Kachemak Bay. This view is literally breathtaking. Off to your left, you will be able to see the Homer Spit which is a rarity in that it is one of the few natural spirits in the world.
The Homer area is famous for its Halibut and salmon fishing, bald eagle observing areas, scenery, and the famous Alaska wild Berry Products.
Fortunately, I have several friends that have boats here in Homer and have caught thousands of pounds of halibut over the years out of his bay.
I can remember several years ago, when we were camped on the beach at the end of the spit and I happened to look out and see fish jumping in the water. I casually picked up my rod and reel, walked down to the edge of the water and cast my lure. On my first cast, a silver salmon bit my lure and I reeled it in. I cast a second time, and wham, another fish! Needless to say, all of a sudden, camper doors, start opening and people started grabbing their rods and reels and rushing down to the water. In a matter of a few minutes there were 40 to 50 people fishing were before there was no one.
And believe it or not, there is some fantastic scuba diving opportunities on the other side of Kachemak Bay. However, you must be an advanced Deep Water, dry suit diver to participate.
The fresh seafood here is out of this world. If you time it right you can buy shrimp, halibut, crab, and clams direct from the fishermen when they dock their boats. You’ll have to watch for them.
Take it all in and enjoy.
From here , you will probably want to retrace your trip and take in some new adventures along the way back to Anchorage.