At a glance, Sterling appears to be one of those towns on the highway you miss if you blink while driving through.
A town of 4,940 people, however, it is about 20 percent larger than its closest neighbor, Soldotna.
Sterling is in an unincorporated section of the Kenai Peninsula Borough immediately northeast of Soldotna along the Sterling Highway.
Although Sterling does not have city limits per se, its residents consider its boundaries to be the Soldotna city limits to the west, the Kenai River to the south, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to the north and an imaginary line just past Feuding Lane to the east.
Without much industry and with limited commercial business, Sterling serves mostly as a bedroom community for the Kenai-Soldotna urban area.
The town has much to offer, however, in terms of outdoor activity from hiking and biking to camping and riverbank access to the world-famous Kenai River.
The river is actually an Alaska State Park, which has its headquarters at Morgan’s Landing in Sterling. Adjacent to the headquarters facility is a 38-site public campground and a day-use parking area with a panoramic view of the Kenai Mountains.
Morgan’s Landing also features an access trail to fishing on the river with fishing platforms and accessible riverbanks.
Izaak Walton State Recreation Site near the heart of Sterling has 31 recreational vehicle and tent camping sites at the confluence of the Kenai and Moose rivers.
The campground offers bank fishing access and a boat launch.
Toward the east end of Sterling is Bing’s Landing, another state recreation site with a 40-site campground, boat launch and day-use parking area.
Bing’s Landing features fishing area platforms near the boat launch, as well as an angler access trail that takes fishermen on a five-minute hike to the Kenai River rapids, a favorite hip-boot fishery that yields all species of salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.
Sterling also is home to Scout Lake, a state recreation day-use site with a picnic area, swimming beach and hiking trail on the north side of the lake.
Overnight camping is not allowed at Scout Lake, and visitors are not required to pay any fees for using the site during the day.
Sterling also is the gateway to the Swanson River Canoe Trail System, a series of canoe lakes connected by portage trails through Alaska wild lands inhabited by moose, bears, small mammals and numerous bird species.
Sterling residents gather twice annually for Sterling Days: once in mid-winter and once in the summer. Volunteers working through the Sterling Community Club host a number of races and fun activities for children and adults alike. The public is always welcome.
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