Official State of Alaska Vacation and Travel Information


Kenai River Special Management Area  

Kenai River Special Management Area

The Kenai River, often referred to as the world's greatest sport fishing river, is also one of the most heavily used freshwater fisheries in Alaska. In an effort to protect and preserve this priceless resource, the state established the Kenai River Special Management Area in 1984 as a unit of the state park system. The management area consists of more than 105 linear miles of rivers and lakes including Kenai Lake, Skilak Lake and the Kenai River from River Mile 82 downstream to four miles above the river's mouth at Cook Inlet.

The Kenai River is world-renowned for its rich fishing as four of the five types of Pacific salmon as well as rainbow trout, Dolly Varden and lake trout thrive in its turquoise waters. But the species that draws the most interest is the king salmon. Biologists believe that genetics, and the fact that Kenai River king salmon often spend an extra year at sea, make them the largest salmon in Alaska. Generally, a trophy salmon in Alaska weighs about 50 pounds. On the Kenai River, anglers don't get too excited until a king salmon tops 75 pounds.

The largest king salmon ever caught occurred in May 1985 when Les Anderson, fishing off a boat on the Kenai River, hooked into a fish and then battled it for more than an hour. He eventually discovered his net was too small to land the fish so Anderson and his fishing partner ended up beaching the boat and wrestling the fish to shore. Later that day, they discovered the fish weighed in at 97.2 pounds, easily topping the previous world record of 93 pounds.

The abundant productivity of the Kenai River and the variety of habitats it flows through enable the area to support large concentrations of other wildlife including bald eagles and many species of migratory waterfowl. Moose, caribou, wolves, bears and other wildlife also use the river system's resources. Visitors will find the special management area offers opportunities for fishing, boating, camping and wildlife viewing.

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