Refuge exemplifies peninsula wilderness

Habitat for moose provides playground for hikers, anglers, many other visitors

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

For wilderness adventure on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai National Wildlife Ref-uge is the place to go.

Encompassing more than 1.9 million acres, the refuge has enough room to accommodate thousands of yearly human visitors, as well as the hundreds of plant and animal species who call the refuge home.

Stretching from Turn-again Arm south of Anchor-age to the mountains south of Kachemak Bay on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, the refuge en-compasses a vast wilderness area originally set aside by President Theodore Roose-velt as protective habitat for Kenai's population of giant moose.

Included in the refuge's expanse are the peninsula's two largest lakes, Tustumena and Skilak, much of the Kenai and Kasilof river drainages and large areas of the Kenai Mountains.

The refuge is vital to the health of the peninsula's wild-life populations and is home to brown and black bears, caribou, moose, lynx, coyotes, loons, eagles, Dall sheep, mountain goats, wolves, salmon and trout.

You will find wildlife displays and visitor information at refuge headquarters on Ski Hill Road, just south of Soldotna on the Sterling Highway.

You will find wildlife displays and visitor information at the refuge headquarters on Ski Hill Road, just south of Soldotna on the Sterling Highway.

Hiking opportunities range from nature and cross-country ski trails around the refuge headquarters to steep hikes in the Kenai Mountains.

There also are numerous public campgrounds and boat launches.

The Russian River, which forms the boundary between the refuge and Chugach Na-tional Forest, hosts one of Alaska's most popular sockeye salmon fisheries.

There also is good sockeye and silver salmon fishing from the banks of the Kenai River.

But sockeye are far from the only sportfishing fare. The Swan Lake and Swan-son River Canoe Trails offer rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.

There are grayling in lower Fuller Lake, about 1.5 miles up the Fuller Lakes Trail beginning at Mile 57 of the Sterling Highway.

Those with boats will find lake trout, Dolly Varden and salmon as well as hiking trails and public-use cabins, some historic on Hidden, Skilak and Tustumena lakes.

Be wary of the weather, though, which can turn stormy and dangerous with little warning.

The refuge provides abundant opportunities for hunting and wildlife viewing. Round Mountain near Fuller Lakes is an excellent place to spot Dall sheep. Watch from the Fuller Lakes Trail or the parking area by the Russian River ferry along the Sterling Highway.

You'll spot bald eagles along the Kenai River and moose can be seen almost anywhere, including the middle of the road. Trumpeter swans visit the lower Moose River, Watson Lake and lakes along the canoe trails.

All-terrain vehicles, water-skiing and jet skies are banned on the refuge. Snow-machines, motorized boats and aircraft are allowed only in specific areas.

Bicycles are allowed but are banned from the refuge trail system.

For more information, contact refuge headquarters at 262-7021.

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