There are roughly 106 miles of canoe trails within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, linking over 70 lakes. The trail system offers canoeists and campers a wide variety of trip opportunities, from single day trips to week-long camping expeditions.
Maps of the refuge trail system, including the Swanson River and Swan Lake canoe trails, are available at refuge headquarters, which is located on Ski Hill Road across from Skyview High School.
Here are a few things the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge would like people to keep in mind when planning a canoe trip inside the refuge:
Party size is limited to a maximum of 15. All canoeists are required to register in log books at route entrances before going out.
The larger lakes in the system can become quite rough in windy conditions. Know your canoeing ability and stay close to shore.
Keep in mind that the canoe system is wilderness. No mechanized or wheeled devices such as canoe carts are allowed.
Portages are land or water passages connecting lakes. Most portages are foot trails ranging from a few feet to almost a mile in length. The terrain varies from hills with uneven exposed roots to boggy, spongy ground.
People choose several ways to tackle portages. These vary from making several trips across a portage carrying canoe and gear separately, to one person carrying a backpack with personal gear and canoe all in one trip. Portage trails are minimally maintained. However, in a few wet areas, boardwalks have been constructed to decrease wetland damage and make portaging safer.
Campsites are not designated in the canoe system. Campers are encouraged to use sites previously established. To find previously used sites (which are often the only "high and dry" areas), look near lake shorelines. Minimum impact camping is stressed to protect wildlife and the wilderness character of the area.
Be aware that wildlife also use portages in their travels. Camping on or near portages may increase bear encounters and is not advised. Although island campsites are popular and attractive areas for canoeists, their use is strongly discouraged. Islands provide protected areas that are easily damaged and important nesting and resting areas for wildlife.
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