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One of the largest glacial lakes in the Kenai River System, Kenai Lake is a beautiful lake in a road-accessible area of Alaska. The backdrop of the majestic Kenai Mountains and its proximity to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge make Kenai Lake a great wilderness getaway.
Boomerang shaped Kenai Lake is 22 miles long and over 540 feet deep. It is fed by several glacial tributaries including the Snowy and Trail Rivers. The outlet of the lake forms the headwaters of the Kenai River. The Kenai River is 82 miles long, passing through Skilak Lake to its outlet at Cook Inlet. The Kenai River has all five species of Pacific salmon, and the section on the Kenai River between Skilak Lake and Kenai Lake is an important spawning ground for Chinook salmon. The salmon over winter in Kenai Lake. There are huge king and silver salmon in the River, and in 1985 a 97 pound salmon was caught on the Kenai River.
Kenai Lake also has abundant populations of rainbow trout, lake trout, and Dolly Varden, a type of char. Anglers can fish from the bank or by boat. Motorboats are allowed on the lake as are personal watercraft with some restrictions. The lake and sections of the Kenai River are particularly well known for kayaking, and there are several outfitters in the area that offer raft trips.
Cooper Landing is on the west end of Kenai Lake. Named for Joseph Cooper who found gold in the area in 1884, Cooper Landing is the self proclaimed "Gem of the Kenai." In addition to multiple fishing guides and boating services, there are spas, restaurants and shopping. Accommodations range from camping, including some on the shore of Kenai Lake, to cabins, bed and breakfasts, and resorts. The Cooper Landing Boat Launch is at the outlet of Kenai Lake. Cooper Landing also has the oldest known prehistoric site on the Kenai Peninsula, and visitors can explore the history of the area's indigenous people at K'Beq Footprints, a cultural heritage site of the Kenaitze Indians.
The area around Kenai Lake has trails for horseback riding and mountain biking, with snowmobiling from December 1 through April 30. The surrounding Kenai Mountains are home to mountain goats and Dall sheep, and it is not uncommon to see bald eagles soaring over the lake. The lake is also near the Chugach Mountains. Just a few miles down the scenic Sterling Highway, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is almost 2 million acres of Alaska wilderness. Originally established as the Kenai National Moose Range in 1941 by President Roosevelt, it has been called a "miniature Alaska" by some. The refuge has examples of every major habitat type in Alaska, and it has abundant wildlife including black and brown bear, wolves, coyotes, lynx, and the moose it was named for. In 1980 the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act renamed the range the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
With the beautiful Kenai National Wildlife Refuge just a few miles down the road and the majestic Kenai Mountains in the background, Kenai Lake is a fantastic Alaska getaway. Adding the amenities of Cooper Landing and easy accessibility will ensure a getaway that is sure to please all visitors.
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