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Kenai

Posted: January 1, 2012 - 2:00am  |  Updated: January 9, 2014 - 2:59pm

Kenai offers a rich cultural environment, including the historic Old Town district overlooking the mouth of the Kenai River and the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, which is home to natural, cultural and historic exhibits about the area.

Lectures by local experts are held throughout the summer at the center and feature such topics as wildlife viewing, Native Youth Olympics and even air rocketry workshops sponsored by the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, which is in Kenai.

You will want to make a point to tour Old Town, and see the distinct architecture of the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church and nearby Saint Nicholas Memorial Chapel. This National Historic Landmark is across from the Parish House and Fort Kenay, a replica of the Russian Orthodox School of 1900 that was built in 1967 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

The Dena'ina Athabascan Indians are the indigenous people of the area. In the Dena'ina language, "Ken'ey" translates into two big flats and river cutback.

The mouth of the world famous Kenai River drainage, where it meets the ebb and flow of the Cook Inlet tides, can be viewed along the bluffs of Kenai. Erik Hansen Scout Park is the perfect spot on the bluff for relaxing and enjoying the view. In July, visitors can watch Alaska residents dipnetting for salmon, while the commercial salmon fleet travels between the processing plants and fishing grounds of Cook Inlet.

For a closer look at the tidal flats, a viewing boardwalk with spotting scopes is located along Bridge Access Road near the Kenai River bridge. A new wildlife viewing platform has been added nearby on Boat Launch Road. This is one of the best areas to spot Kenai's lowland caribou herd, as well as myriad shorebirds and other wildlife. Three active volcanoes across the waters of Cook Inlet, Iliamna, Redoubt and Spurr, offer a stunning backdrop from this vantage point.

Countless other recreational opportunities abound in Kenai. The city is home to its own Alaska Baseball League team, the Peninsula Oilers, an elite collegiate summer baseball team. The Oilers have had numerous former players go on to careers in the major leagues in the team's 35-year history. Only Alaska summers offer night games without any artificial lighting. Where else can you tee off for a round of golf late in the evening and have plenty of daylight left to get in a full 18 holes?

Must-see in Kenai

If you're in Kenai, it's worth swinging by the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center to check out displays of Native Alaskan artifacts, the history of the area and the annual summer art show. While you're there, pick up a brochure for a self-guided walking tour of Old Town Kenai.

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