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Kenai River Special Management Area

Kenai River Special Management Area
Morgan's Landing

Welcome to the Kenai River Special Management Area! The Kenai River is an angler’s paradise, boasting all five species of Pacific Salmon and large rainbow trout. It is Alaska’s largest sport fishery, world renowned for it’s record-size Chinook salmon. All in all, 36 different species of fish call the Kenai River home. Fish and anglers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the remarkable Kenai; bald eagles, caribou, trumpeter swans, moose and bears are just a few of the inhabitants that make the Kenai River a prime location for watchable wildlife.

The Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) was established in 1984 in response to the increasing public use and strain on the river system's health. The KRSMA contains more than 105 miles of rivers and lakes and is adjacent to 16 publically managed parks that offer prime opportunities for boating, camping, wildlife viewing and, of course, fishing. Come visit the Kenai  and make your own adventure!


Opportunities abound for sport fishing on the Kenai River. Each year there are two runs of Chinook (King) salmon, Sockeye (Red) salmon and Coho (Silver) salmon plus a run of Pink salmon every other year. The world record King salmon, which weighed 97 pounds 4 ounces was caught from the Kenai River in 1985. The Kenai is also home to trophy Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden, some reaching over 30 inches in length. Sockeye salmon, or Reds as they are affectionately known due to their brilliant red spawning colors, run in late-June through early August. Reds are considered the premier salmon for eating, smoking and canning. There are numerous parks and other public access areas for fishermen looking to wet their line in the Kenai


The 100+ mile Kenai River waterway is a perfect place to recreate on the water. Visitors and residents alike frequent the Kenai by raft, drift boat, kayak and power boat and pack raft. The Upper Kenai is non-motorized and provides boaters with a scenic float through a very interesting river corridor. Rocks, gravel bars, rapids, log jams, other boaters and fishermen make for an exciting float. Kenai and Skilak Lakes offer miles and miles of water to explore. These large water bodies are great for sightseeing by kayak or power boat. The  Middle and Lower Kenai River are both very popular places to paddle and fish by boat. Go with the flow; don’t disrupt the use pattern of other boaters.  Be courteous of other boaters in these areas, give non-motorized boat traffic the right of way and slow down when traveling in congested areas and around sharp corners. Get out and enjoy the beautiful blue water of the Kenai River.


The Kenai Peninsula offers an abundance of trails providing access to fishing and scenic overlooks, photographic opportunities and unmatched panoramic views of  the Kenai River, Skilak and Kenai Lakes. Some of the larger park units and recreation sites  including Slikok Creek, Morgan’s Landing and Bing’s Landing have river access trails providing short hikes and great views of the river. Several hiking trails near Skilak Lake deliver exceptional views of the Upper Kenai River, Skilak Lake and the Kenai Mountains. Bring good hiking shoes, snacks and water and be prepared for unpredictable weather.


Camping by tent or RV is a very popular activity on the Kenai River. The KRSMA has several campgrounds to choose from, all of which are adjacent to  the Kenai River. Bing’s Landing Campground, Morgan’s Landing Campground, Izaak Walton Campground and Funny River Campground are all located on the Middle River and provide fishing access to the River. Sites at the campground have fire rings and picnic tables and a place to park a vehicle, although the KRSMA does have several walk in sites. Camping is only permitted in developed campgrounds. All other undeveloped state lands, river islands, and day-use facilities within KRSMA are closed to camping.


The Kenai River Special Management Area abounds with photographic opportunities. The river provides a great backdrop for photographs and the majestic Kenai Mountains are often visible. Whether you are in search of the perfect sunset, stunning landscape or a shameless selfie, the KRSMA has it all. Great images are born often from hiking nearby trails, exploring the grounds near your campsite and even just driving the Sterling Highway. The Upper Kenai River parallels the Sterling Highway in several areas between Cooper Landing and Skilak Lake providing especially easy access to great views of the river. The turquoise blue water of the Kenai provides an excellent color contrast with the brilliant colors of summer and fall. The long days of summer provide up to 20 hours of light, ample opportunity to find the right lighting, although early sunrise and late sunsets may disturb your sleep cycle. Striking crimson sockeye salmon can be seen swimming in slow pools waiting to spawn. The opportunity to capture a memorable image on the Kenai is great.

Wildlife Viewing

The Kenai Peninsula has distinctive and varying habitats and is considered a miniature Alaska in many regards. The Kenai Peninsula stretches some 200 miles long and 100 miles wide and features every Alaska wildlife habitat type except Arctic tundra. It also boasts extensive waterways, wetlands, roads and hiking trails that offer ample opportunity to observe wildlife. Moose and bears can be found foraging the shores of the Kenai River at many creek confluences. From the boardwalk at  the Cooper Landing boat launch, visitors can often view Dall sheep on the mountains to the north and goats on the steeper slopes to the south. A multitude of bird species can also be seen flying the river corridor and fishing its waters. Salmon often swim near shore in shallow waters while migrating upstream and salmon smolt can be seen in the near shore waters feeding and journeying out to sea. Lynx, river otters, coyotes, wolves and mink also venture out during the salmon spawn, as do both brown and black bears, often when the river is quiet of boats. Trumpeter swans and eagles can be seen in quiet stretches of river and on Kenai and Skilak Lakes during the migration periods of early winter and spring. These are a few of the wildlife highlights, and most observant visitors can see many additional species of  wildlife.

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