Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

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Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Soldotna and the Kenai River

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge contact station is on the Sterling Highway between Cooper Landing and Soldotna. The refuge's visitor center is on Ski Hill Road in Soldotna.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge contact station is on the Sterling Highway between Cooper Landing and Soldotna. The refuge's visitor center is on Ski Hill Road in Soldotna.

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2012 Alaska Visitors Guide - Front

River adventure

Soldotna is located 140 miles south of Anchorage and features the pristine waters of the Kenai River flowing through the town's heart. The river provides a rich source of food for many, and serves as a major theme for all types of area art.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, Scott Moon
Three Alaskan masks on display at the Soldotna Homestead Museum in Kenai, Alaska.

Editor's Picks
• The biggest fish: You must see the world-record king salmon on display at the Soldotna Visitors Center. Les Anderson hooked the 97-pound, 4-ounce monster in 1985. The center is just steps away from the Kenai River, which has a number of boardwalks designed to get visitors and anglers down to the river. There also are other animal mounts on display at the center.

• Homestead history: The Soldotna Homestead Museum preserves the community's history in a homesteaders' village, with wildlife displays and Alaska Native artifacts.

• Get in a boat: Of course, a boat can open up the Kenai River to fishing opportunities, but the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has two canoe trail systems, the Swanson River and the Swan Lake trails, that are great for exploring. There are several routes that can be as short as a day paddle or up to a week. Alaska is wild; this is a great way to enjoy it. Editor's picks

The Soldotna Visitors Center should be at the top of all visitors' itineraries. The center provides information in the form of brochures, maps and some great advice on where to eat and play.

The center also has a great display of wildlife including bald eagle, black bear, Dall sheep, several species of birds and a world record king salmon caught just downstream of the center by Les Anderson in 1985.

"Visit Soldotna and you will understand why we are a favorite playground for Alaska," said center staff member Tanya Lautaret.

The center also features a fish walk with 250 feet of walkway and a stairway down to the river. Free tours are held daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. from June 15 to Aug. 15. The tours are approximately 30 minutes long and access to the river is handicapped-accessible.

For visitors with fishing in mind, the Kenai River is a great source. Fish can be obtained from the banks near the visitors center, at Rotary Park on Funny River Road and Soldotna Creek Park in town. For those wanting a guided trip, full- and half-day charters can help fishers catch salmon, Dolly Varden trout and steelhead.

Soldotna is a hot spot in the summertime for fishing, but for those interested in viewing Soldotna's artistic side, the Quilting on the Kenai Wearable Arts and Fashion Show is a must-see.

Pat Reese, owner of Robin Place Fabrics, said the summer event is popular for residents and visitors. For the past 15 years, Reese has coordinated the event to showcase area talent and promote area businesses.

The event kicks off with the quilt walk. Participants are given a passport with names of 10 area business with quilts on display. After each store is visited, the vendor stamps the participant's passport and they are entered into a drawing held at the fashion show.

"They have one week to complete the tour," Reese said. "It makes a fun event."

The quilt show is held on June 25-27 at Cook Inlet Academy on Kalifornsky Beach Road, with demonstrations, national teachers featured and vendors on hand for questions and sales.

Reese said one unique aspect of the show is the treadle race with youth and adult divisions and three heats. She said it is great to watch the races performed on old treadle machines.

"It is really fun," she said. "It is more difficult than you think."

The event culminates with the wearable art fashion show, where the door prize is a new Pfaff sewing machine. This year's theme is The Spirit of Alaska and a special statehood quilt will be presented.

For the past 15 years the event has grown and attracted visitors from Alaska and the Lower 48. Reese said it is a great way to see the art and meet those who come for the fashions.

"There is lots of wonderful talent here. It has just been a growing process," she said.

Those looking to incorporate fitness into their visit to Soldotna should sign up for Tri the Kenai, a triathlon on June 13.

The triathlon will take place at Solid Rock Bible Camp. Competitors will swim one-half mile in Miracle Lake, bike 16 miles on the Sterling Highway and Robinson Loop and run a 5-kilometer race through the woods on maintained gravel trails.

Angie Brennan, personal trainer and triathlon founder, said she is excited to see the race come to fruition after she and several area residents had been training for triathlons and other races throughout the winter.

"We all just decided we needed a triathlon," she said. "I feel like a proud mama."

Brennan said she was also excited about the swag bags given to each of the racers. She said several area businesses donated great items to celebrate their efforts.

Brennan said racers can sign up at fitalaskans.com until June 12. There will not be registration on the day of the race.

"It will be so much fun," she added.

For those looking to take a dip in Miracle Lake, make sure to bring a wet suit. Val McKenney, with Solid Rock Bible Camp, said the nonglacier-fed lake is one of the warmest in Alaska but still not very warm.

"The average June temperature is in the low to mid-50s," she said.

Another fun event to attend is the weekend rodeo shows at the Soldotna Rodeo grounds.

Rhonda Harvey, treasurer for the Soldotna Equestrian Association, said there are three rodeos held in the summer, May 30 and 31, June 13 and 14 and June 25 and 26 starting at 2 p.m. The events feature bull riding, breakaway roping and barrel racing.

"It is a great event for visitors to come and see," Harvey said.

Freelance writer Sara J. Hardan-Smith lives in Nikiski.

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