The junction of the Sterling and Kenai Spur Highways has made Soldotna a regional center of commerce.
Along these highways, Soldotna’s business district caters to needs from custom salmon processing, tire repair, and retail, to galleries specializing in Alaska Native art. The Kenai river also passes through town, carrying a traffic just as vital: at the Soldotna Visitors Center, located at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road, the world record sport-caught king salmon is on display, and stairs leading to the river offer views of anglers casting along the banks.
Fishing, either for personal consumption, the sport of it, or commercial use —is a way of life for area residents.
From about March to October each year, it’s easy to find someone standing at the banks of the Kenai River, trying to hook one of the four species of Pacific Salmon that return to the area — or a resident species like the voracious rainbow trout or energetic Dolly Varden.
Anglers who snag themselves with lures can have the hooks removed at the Central Peninsula Hospital, 130 South Willow Street.
The hospital staff collects such hooks on a pair of Styrofoam dummies, which pick up several hundred lures during the course of a summer.
Soldotna’s origins in the postwar homesteading movement can be seen at the Soldotna Historical Society’s a museum near Centennial Park, which has replicas of homesteaders’ log cabins, as well as wildlife displays and Native artifacts.
South of the city on Ski Hill Road, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters offers more animal and nature exhibits, as well as a day hike trail and information about the Refuge’s many programs and facilities.
In the winter months, residents enjoy the frequent sled dog races held near Soldotna Municipal Airport, as well as the lighted cross-country ski trails located behind Skyview School, which are maintained by the Tsalteshi Trail Association.
For a bird’s eye view, charter a flight-seeing trip with one of the air taxi services based out of Soldotna.
The best, unobstructed views of the volcanoes across the Cook Inlet are from the Kenai Spur Highway just north of town or the Sterling Highway just south of Soldotna.
However, on the drive through town, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Redoubt several times.
Redoubt last erupted in 2009 after a more than two-decade hiatus. Read more about area volcanic activity.