Area: 29.9 square miles
Population: 6,942 (2000 census)
County: Kenai Peninsula
The city of Kenai is on the eastern shore of Cook Inlet at the mouth of the Kenai River, 156 road miles south of Anchorage and 90 miles north of Homer.
Kenai is the transportation hub of the Kenai Peninsula home to the peninsula's biggest and busiest airport. Dubbed the "oil capital of Alaska", Kenai's economy has traditionally been based on the oil and gas industry and commercial fishing. Over the past few years, tourism is playing a more important role.
The city boasts magnificent views of Cook Inlet and Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Spur and Mt. Iliamna. One of Kenai's best-kept secrets is its public beach. Within a short drive from Kenai, lies Captain Cook State Park, the Swanson River canoe system and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. You can reach Kenai from Soldotna by taking the 11-mile Spur Highway at Mile 95 of the Sterling Highway.
Shortly after establishing Kodiak as a trading center in 1784, the colonizing Russians began to look for other places where similar communities could be set up as "controls" for area rule. Kenai was the first of these "controls."
In 1791, Russia built Fort St. Nicholas (also known as Saint Nicholas Redoubt) in the midst of an Athabascan Dena'ina community near the present site of Kenai. This became the Russians' second permanent settlement in Alaska. The Dena'ina hunted, fished, farmed, and trapped in this area but the Russians were only interested in the fur trade.
Alaska became part of the U.S. in 1867. The U.S. Military in Kenai established Fort Kenay from 1867 to 1869. A post office soon followed and a village grew up around it.
In 1957, oil was first discovered in Alaska near the Swanson River in Kenai and oil's "boom years" were ushered in.
Today, Old Town Kenai still shows remnants of its Russian history. A self-guided walking tour takes visitors to the site of the old Russian parish, and the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church where church services are still held. Many Alaska Native and Russian artifacts are on display at the Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center, where walking tour maps can be had at no charge.
Information/Emergency The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, operated by the Kenai Convention & Visitors Bureau is located in the heart of Kenai and is a must stop for anyone visiting Kenai. The city-owned Center features a cultural museum & wildlife displays. See the original art show "Spirit of Alaska: The Inner Landscape" May 1 through Sept. 8. $3 general admission, children free. Knowledgeable staff are always on-hand to provide traveler information. The Center is open 7 days per week in summer, and 6 days per week the rest of the year. Kenai Convention & Visitors Bureau, 11471 Kenai Spur Highway, Kenai, AK 99611; 907-283-1991. web: visitkenai.com
Emergency only 911: State Troopers - in Soldotna 907-262-4453, Hospital - in Soldotna 907-262-4404.
Things To Do
The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, at 11471 Kenai Spur Highway; 283-1991. Displays showing the rich diversity of the area, from natural wildlife exhibits, native artwork & artifacts of Russian art.
Self-guided Old Town Kenai Walking Tour. Pick-up the brochure at the Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center and set off on your own to learn about Kenai's interesting history, from its Alaska Native origins, to the Russian's presence, to its 20th Century influences.
The Kenai Fire Arts Center in the Old Fire Hall on Cook Ave., exhibits paintings, soapstone, carvings and photography by local artists. Sponsored by the Kenai Art Guild, it is open 10am to 4pm daily except Sundays.
The Russian Orthodox Church, next to Fort Kenay, was built in 1896. The original church was founded in 1846 on the same site. A National Historic Landmark, the church, with its three onion-shaped domes, is well preserved and an excellent example of Russian architecture in Alaska.
When Visiting the Kenai Peninsula, reserve your suite in Homer:
Alaskan Suites3255 Sterling Highway · Homer · Alaska · 99603 · 907-235-1972
Make this your home base for your authentic Alaskan adventure:
Summit Lake Lodge51826 Seward Hwy · Moose Pass · AK · 99631 · +1 907-244-2031
Welcome to Summit Lake Lodge, a historic Alaskan log lodge, in the heart of the Chugach National Forest. Remote yet accessible. Make this your home base for your authentic Alaskan adventure.