The 1.3 million acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge offers a host of summer fun, as long as you're willing to work at it. Due to a ban on motorized use within the park, there are only two ways to explore most of the refuge: foot power or paddle power.
That theme was evident earlier this month as the refuge played host to a "canoe day," a chance for the public to become acquainted with all the refuge has to offer recreationalists who don't mind providing a little of their own horsepower.
The canoe day came about as a way to spread the word about canoeing opportunities within the refuge, according to Park Ranger Candace Ward.
"It's important people have the opportunity to learn more about outdoor activities on the refuge," Ward said. "We have a nationally recognized canoe system. We want to help people use it in a way they feel safe and confident.".
The day kicked off with a morning talk by Dan Quick, who is the author of the book "The Kenai Canoe Trails." Quick spoke about what the refuge trails have to offer, as well as how to be safe while enjoying the outdoors by canoe.
Washington resident Sandra Bullock attended the canoe day with her husband. She said Quick's talk showed her the integral part safety plays in having an enjoyable experience.
"Safety is very important. A lake seems tame, but you really have to be prepared," Bullock said. She said if she and her husband eventually decide to take a canoe trip in the refuge, Quick's book will come along with them.
"I thought he did a very good job. I'd definitely buy his book," she said.
Following Quick's presentation, participants had the opportunity to get out and test the waters of the refuge's Headquarters Lake. A canoe demonstration, sponsored by Mad River Canoes and Wilderness Way outdoor store, was held for anyone "brave" enough to try canoeing under sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures.
About 30 people were able to get out on the lake, which is normally closed to all boat traffic. Smiles abounded as individuals or partners took turns paddling around the placid waters. Once back on shore, everyone seemed eager to get back on the water again.
"It was wonderful. And what a beautiful day," said Kenai resident Rita Botelho. Botelho said she was thinking about buying a new canoe, and the canoe day gave her an opportunity to check out a variety of models.
"The snowplow guy dropped his blade on mine this winter," she said.
"I go out (canoeing) alone. I think one of those 15-footers would be just perfect," Botelho continued, eyeing a brand new canoe hugging the shoreline.
Ward said she was just pleased people were taking an interest in the refuge.
"A lot of folks don't realize the potential use. The thing is, you're gonna experience it with your own energy, your own muscles and your own sweat. Hiking and canoeing, these are priority activities in the parks system nationwide," she said.
She said she was pleased with the success of the canoe day, especially coming so early in the season.
"We've never had the opportunity to do anything like this in the spring.
"It was just great."
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.