Wildlife Viewing

Kenai Peninsula Caribou

There are 4 small caribou herds on the Kenai Peninsula – Kenai Lowland, Fox River, Kenai Mountains, and the Kelley River. 

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  • The Kenai Lowland caribou herd typically summers north of the City of Kenai airport (can be viewed from Marathon Road) to Swanson River, on the Kenai River flats, and western portion of the Peninsula south of the Sterling Highway to Kasilof. The herd winters on the lower Moose River to the outlet of Skilak Lake and the area around Brown’s Lake. This small herd of about 130 animals is preyed upon by domestic free ranging dogs, wolves, and bears with domestic dogs being a major threat to the sustainability of this herd. There is no hunting allowed on this population.
  • The Kenai Mountain caribou herd (250-300 animals) lives in the drainage of the Chickaloon River, Big Indian Creek, and Resurrection Creek.
  • The Killey River caribou herd (250-300 animals) inhabits the upper portion of the Funny and Killey rivers.
  • The Fox River caribou herd (45-50 animals) occupies the area between Fox River and Truuli Creek.

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Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Originally established in 1941 as the Kenai National Moose Range, this area was expanded from 1.73 million acres to 1.92 million acres through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, and renamed the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

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The refuge, which lies east of the lease sale area throughout the Kenai Peninsula, consists of relatively undisturbed wilderness and supports habitat for Kenai wildlife, including caribou, moose, brown and black bear, mountain goat, Dall sheep, wolves, lynx, wolverines, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl. The headwaters of several important salmon streams are located in the refuge, including the Kenai, Russian, Kasilof, Anchor and Fox rivers. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is a 1.92 million acre conservation area established in 1941 by Theodore Roosevelt with the sole purpose to manage all species of animals for everybody to see and enjoy.

While visiting the refuge, make sure to take advantage of all it has to offer:

  • Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center – located just 15 minutes from Kenai and open daily.
  • Hike one of the many established trails.
  • Paddle through the 100 mile canoe trail system
  • Fish on a secluded lake
  • Reserve a cabin, backcountry camp or stay a night at a campground

For more information: (907) 262-7021 or kenai.fws.gov

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Fly-Out Bear Viewing

Chinitna Bay on Cook Inlet offers world class bear viewing along the beach, in the meadows in the uplands, and in the rivers at the head of the bay as the salmon begin to run. Unique concentrations of food promote high numbers of bears intent on foraging the protein rich sedges, clams, and salmon.

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In addition to bear viewing visitors to Chinitna Bay can walk and explore the wide beaches, fish, and clam dig.  A trip to Chinitna Bay offers a unique
wilderness experience in the heart of coastal bear country. While the Chinitna Bay meadows are closed to visitors, identified viewing locations offer spectacular views of the bears grazing the meadows. Visitors may be able to see as many as twenty coastal brown bears from a single location. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is not on the road system and access is primarily by small aircraft. When weather and tides permit, the east side of the park on the Cook Inlet coast may be accessed by boat in addition to aircraft.

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Mouth of the Kenai River

While in Kenai be sure to take the time for this remarkable opportunity to explore and enjoy access to the mouth of the Kenai River and views from Cook Inlet of Mt. Redoubt and Mt Spur. Kenai beach access – Three easy access points are available. 

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  • Driving access: Turn left onto Spruce Drive from the Kenai Visitor & Cultural Center.  No charge for parking – August through June. Easy parking and turnaround area for RV’s and campers.
  • Beach Access via trail systems – Access is offered from Old Town Kenai and also from the Kenai Municipal Park located on Forest Drive.
  • Staircase access and viewing point – Located at the end of Forest Drive.
  • Kenai Municipal Park – located off Forest Drive. 1st stoplight after the Kenai Visitor & Cultural Center.  This park offers several trails and moose frequent this area from September – June. Picnic areas with BBQ grills, playground equipment, restrooms are available.  18’ – 20’ RV and camper parking access is good. Overnight camping is not allowed.
  • Viewing access points – Bridge Access Road offers several pull outs and access to bird and wildlife viewing. From each side of the Ames Warren Bridge designated viewing points offer access to the Kenai Flats where Caribou, Coyotes, Wolves, Birds, Beluga Whales, Harbor Seals can be seen.

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Wildlife Viewing by Season

While visiting in May – April 

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 Bird viewing from the observations decks located off Bridge Access Road and from the beach are great viewing areas for many species of birds that visit and make Kenai their home.

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While visiting in April – May  

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Beluga Whales frequent the Cook Inlet area at the mouth of the Kenai River. Often they will travel into the river system approximately one mile upstream following their food source.

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While visiting in May – October  

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Over 200 Harbor Seals are commonly seen in the Kenai River. Harbor Seals frequently surface as they hang out with salmon coming into the mouth of the Kenai River.

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While visiting in June – September  

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Watch for the Lowland Caribou Herd on the Kenai Flats located off Bridge Access Road.

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While visiting in Mid-July to End-July 

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Watch as Alaskan residents dip net at the mouth of the Kenai River catching Chinook (Red) Salmon as subsistence to feed their families. It is a sport all unto itself and is a wonderful annual phenomenon worth experiencing!

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While visiting in Late August  

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 October: Watch for Beluga Whales coming up into the Kenai River as far north as Cunningham Park following the salmon.

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While visiting in October – February

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 Watch for coyotes enjoying themselves on the Kenai Flats and surrounding areas on bright sunny days.

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Wildlife Photo Gallery