Posted: Friday, February 09, 2007

Soldotna is a town with unique beauty and a great place to fish along the banks of the Kenai River, stroll through one of its riverside parks or go camping.

The world record king salmon was caught in the Kenai River and is on display at the Soldotna Visitor Center. When you visit, get your picture taken with the life-size wood sculpture of the world record holder, Les Anderson, and his world record fish. The fish was caught in 1985 and weighed 97 lbs, 4 oz. Les Anderson Day, held on May 17 each year, is the Soldotna chamber’s newest celebration.

The Kenai River, which is 80 miles long from Kenai Lake in Cooper Landing to the mouth of the Cook Inlet in Kenai, is a vein that supports the community. Fishing the Kenai River in Soldotna can be as simple as throwing a line in from the banks or as elaborate as a chartered fishing trip.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and Visitor Center is located on Ski Hill Road south of Soldotna’s city limits. This wildlife refuge draws a half a million visitors a year, more than any other in Alaska and encompasses nearly 2 million acres that border most Kenai Peninsula communities, including Soldotna.

The town was opened to homestead filing in 1947. Many World War II veterans became the first homesteaders in the area. Others trickled in as the area grew.

In 1959 Dr. Paul Isaak began making weekly trips from Seward to Soldotna every Wednesday to see patients. The next year he opened a temporary office in a 2-bedroom house where the Central Emergency Services fire department sits today. Life, as well as the small town of Soldotna, was vastly different than the Soldotna of today.

“I used the old airstrip which has long since been closed but at that time the airstrip was right in the middle of town and was very handy in that I could taxi right from the office to the airstrip and take off,” Isaak wrote in “Once upon a Kenai, stories of the people.”F

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