River rafters float the Kenai River near Cooper Landing, Alaska
Photo Credit: ATIA, Matt Hage

Cooper Landing

Cooper Landing

Cooper Landing is located on the Sterling Highway at the north end of Kenai Lake, and although it has only about 480 residents, in the summer it bustles with anglers fishing on the famed Kenai River.


Cooper Landing stretches several miles along the Sterling Highway, which connects the Kenai Peninsula with Anchorage and destinations further north. Originally inhabited by gold prospectors in the mid- to late 1800s, these days the community is best known for sport fishing.


The heart of town is a five-building national historic district at Mile 48.7 of the Sterling Highway. In a picturesque setting beneath towering mountains along the banks of the Kenai River is the Cooper Landing Historical Society Museum. The museum includes exhibits in two historic buildings: Jack Lean's Cabin, which was built in the late 1920's and served as the home of the Cooper Landing Post Office for almost 40 years, and the School House, built in 1955 and used until 2001. Also at the museum is a picnic area and a gift shop.

Fishing guides based in Cooper Landing float the scenic Upper Kenai River in drift boats for rainbow trout and sockeye salmon. King and silver salmon are the targets on guided floats on the lower Kenai River from powerboats. Fishing fever runs high at the Russian River Campground during the summer and anglers stand shoulder in what is commonly referred to as “combat fishing.” Bears also frequently get in on the fishing action along the river banks of the Russian River Campground, so keep an eye out.

Cooper Landing is also a popular starting point for rafting trips down the Kenai River, with a number of outfitters offering trips from gentle half-day floats to thrilling full-day adventures including Class III whitewater in the Kenai Canyon.

For those that prefer their adventures off the water, the area provides close access to several popular and scenic trails that explore the area’s mountains and lakes, including the Resurrection Pass South TrailheadRussian Lakes/Russian River Falls TrailCrescent Lake Trail, and Slaughter Ridge Trail. Visitors can also rent mountain bikes in Cooper Landing and explore Crescent Lake and the Resurrection Pass Trail, both popular for mountain biking.


After a day on the water or the trails, visitors can return to Cooper Landing for a wide range of lodging, restaurants, and other visitor services. Overnight options include several lodges, bed & breakfasts, cabins, and a few nearby RV parks and campgrounds, including the popular Russian River Campground with over 80 sites. Also scattered in the Chugach National Forest that surrounds Cooper Landing are numerous Forest Service cabins that can be reserved in advance. Many require float plane transport that can be arranged with charter air service operators in Cooper Landing. Others, most notably on the Resurrection Pass Trail and the Russian Lakes Trail, can be reached on foot.


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