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Kenai harbors historic beginnings

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

With more than 7,000 residents, the city of Kenai is the largest city on the Kenai Peninsula and offers many opportunities to appreciate wildlife, art and the area's far-reaching history.

Kenai's Native inhabitants, the Dena'ina, a tribe of Athabascan Ind-ians, and later the Russians and Americans, all made the mouth of the Kenai River the center of their presence on the peninsula.

Oil was discovered in 1957 near the Swanson River, causing rapid development and sustained growth, while commercial salmon fishing and tourism provide diversity to the economy.

Historic Old Town Kenai features Fort Kenay, a replica of the Russian Orthodox School built in 1900.

The fort was constructed in 1967 in celebration of the Alaska purchase from the Russians 100 years earlier. It stands where the original fort was built in 1869, which also was the site of an earlier Russian fort (1791).

Elsewhere in Old Town is the Kenai Bible Church, the Civic League Building, an American Legion post, the old Kenai jail and numerous homesteader cabins.

Visitors can enjoy walking tours of Old Town using a tour map available at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

There also are maps at the cultural center for those who prefer a self-guided tour.

The visitors center also offers a free summer interpretive program from June through August that features science on Mondays, art on Wednesdays and Alaska heritage on Fridays. Each program begins at 3 p.m.

This year's summer art extravaganza at the cultural center is "Wild Alaska: Bounty of the Sea," featuring wildlife paintings from Alaska artists from May 1 to Sept. 11.

Kenai is home to many parks and open spaces, including Erik Hansen Scout Park overlooking Cook Inlet and the mouth of the Kenai River, which bustles with activity during the commercial and dipnet salmon fisheries. From that vantage point, and from Cunningham Park on Beaver Loop Road, beluga whales can sometimes be seen in the lower river chasing their next meal.

Wildlife viewing can be done at two spots on the Kenai River flats along Bridge Access Road.

With more than 7,000 residents, the city of Kenai is the largest city on the Kenai Peninsula and offers many opportunities to appreciate wildlife, art and the area's far-reaching history.

Kenai's Native inhabitants, the Dena'ina, a tribe of Athabascan Ind-ians, and later the Russians and Americans, all made the mouth of the Kenai River the center of their presence on the peninsula.

Oil was discovered in 1957 near the Swanson River, causing rapid development and sustained growth, while commercial salmon fishing and tourism provide diversity to the economy.

Historic Old Town Kenai features Fort Kenay, a replica of the Russian Orthodox School built in 1900.

The fort was constructed in 1967 in celebration of the Alaska purchase from the Russians 100 years earlier. It stands where the original fort was built in 1869, which also was the site of an earlier Russian fort (1791).

Elsewhere in Old Town is the Kenai Bible Church, the Civic League Building, an American Legion post, the old Kenai jail and numerous homesteader cabins.

Visitors can enjoy walking tours of Old Town using a tour map available at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

There also are maps at the cultural center for those who prefer a self-guided tour.

The visitors center also offers a free summer interpretive program from June through August that features science on Mondays, art on Wednesdays and Alaska heritage on Fridays. Each program begins at 3 p.m.

This year's summer art extravaganza at the cultural center is "Wild Alaska: Bounty of the Sea," featuring wildlife paintings from Alaska artists from May 1 to Sept. 11.

Kenai is home to many parks and open spaces, including Erik Hansen Scout Park overlooking Cook Inlet and the mouth of the Kenai River, which bustles with activity during the commercial and dipnet salmon fisheries. From that vantage point, and from Cunningham Park on Beaver Loop Road, beluga whales can sometimes be seen in the lower river chasing their next meal.

Wildlife viewing can be done at two spots on the Kenai River flats along Bridge Access Road.



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