A moose crosses the Sterling Highway in Soldotna
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Located in the heart of the western Kenai Peninsula, the city of Soldotna is home to 4,000 year-round residents, the seat of borough government and one of the most popular sporting rivers on the planet.
Indeed, the world-famous Kenai River runs right through town.
Adventures for outdoors enthusiasts are not difficult to find. There are bird viewing and wildlife trips available on the river, as well as flightseeing, canoe trips, hiking trips, specialty shopping and horseback riding.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge offers animal and nature exhibits, free movies and hiking trails. The refuge trail system varies widely in length and difficulty and takes hikers along creeks and rivers, through forests and to mountain peaks high above the tree line. Most trails are located in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and are road-accessible. The trails mostly are used for day hikes, but camping is permitted along all trails. Visitors hoping to see wildlife have the best chance of doing so while hiking, and many trails lead to lakes suitable for fishing.
Soldotna’s business district along the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways cater to many needs, from custom salmon processing to galleries that specialize in Native art, as well as services like tire repair.
The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center is at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road. There are stairs leading down to the river offering close-up views of people fishing along the banks of the Kenai. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from May 15 to Aug. 31.
The visitors center houses the largest and second-largest world record sport-caught king salmon. The biggest weighs 97.4 pounds. The second-place fish weighed in at 95.1 pounds.
The Soldotna Historical Society has a museum near Centennial Park and Rodeo Grounds with postwar homesteaders’ log cabins, wildlife displays and Native artifacts. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays.
Soldotna has much to offer those who take the time to explore its side roads. Soldotna has 11 city parks totaling nearly 400 acres, with more than a half mile of elevated boardwalks along the river and more than 200 campsites. There is an $11 fee for overnight camping and $5 fee for day use at Centennial, Swiftwater and Rotary parks, plus a 5 percent tax.
The town’s recreation facilities include the Soldotna Sports Center, ball fields, rodeo grounds, a golf course, recreation trails, public library, roller rink and airport that hosts small planes and ultralites.
The highlight of summer events is Soldotna Progress Days, which features a parade, community dinner, dances, live entertainment, a rodeo, car shows, arts and crafts and games for kids. This year’s event will take place July 22 and 23.
The hospital is located between Kobuk Street and the Kenai Spur Highway on West Marydale Avenue. The emergency entrance is located on Fireweed Street.
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