Old-time Alaska still lingers in small towns

Posted: Saturday, April 20, 2002

The colorful and distinctive little towns on the Kenai Peninsula offer visitors quirky views of Alaska.

Hope -- The peninsula's northernmost community began as a Gold Rush boom town. Today the 140 residents retain small mining and logging operations. Visitors can visit the picturesque town, check out its museum, dine, pan for gold, mountain bike and hike the Resurrection Pass Trail.

Moose Pass -- This hamlet of about 200 on the road to Seward offers vistas of the Trail Lakes, a station on the Alaska Railroad and quiet getaways. It also hosts an annual summer solstice celebration.

Cooper Landing -- Turquoise Kenai Lake and the striking Kenai Mountains charm visitors and about 370 year-round residents. The town is home to the Kenai Princess Lodge and river rafting outfits. Surrounded by Chugach National Forest, it is near trail heads and the popular Russian River fishery.

Sterling -- Sterling is home to about 5,000 people and the gateway to the Swanson River canoe area in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The confluence of the Kenai and Moose rivers attracts fishing, camping and boating.

Nikiski -- Also known as North Kenai or Nikishka, it's home to about 5,000 people and the area's petrochemical industry. Recreation facilities include new ski trails, the North Peninsula Recreation Center pool with its water slide and Captain Cook State Recreation Area north of town.

Kasilof -- "The little town that isn't there" by the southern juncture of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road is home to the world's largest hat collection at the Tustumena Lodge, the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race and a salmon fishery second only to the Kenai River. It's also the gateway to Tustumena Lake.

Ninilchik -- The old Russian village is a favorite with photographers and anglers. The Ninilchik River and Deep Creek feature salmon and offshore charters for halibut. The landmark Orthodox church welcomes viewers. The library or the chamber of commerce provide visitor information about this town of 780.

Anchor Point -- The westernmost point on the U.S. highway system, this town of 1,800 prides itself on the Anchor River's fly-fishing, steelhead trout and salmon runs. Events include fishing derbies for all ages, Fourth of July festivities and the winter Snow Rondi festival. The Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce has a summer visitors' center by the school.

Nikolaevsk -- This colony of Russian Old Believers has about 350 residents off the North Fork Road west of Anchor Point. The community's church has striking exterior icons. Shops sell handicrafts such as embroidery and Russian souvenirs.

Halibut Cove -- The private Kachemak Bay Ferry takes visitors from Homer to the cove, which welcomes guests with its lodges, art galleries and a gourmet restaurant. The 40 residents live in a splendid setting on the doorstep of Kachemak Bay State Park.

Seldovia -- This south Kachemak village of 400 is one of the peninsula's most historic. The former fishing port reinvented itself as a tourist destination. The annual Fourth of July bash is a traditional favorite. Check out the old boardwalk, pocket parks and Alaska Tribal Cache. Seldovia offers access to Jakalof Bay, scenic Red Mountain or the Alutiiq villages of Port Graham and Nanwalek.

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