Nikiski boasts an enviable location adjacent to Captain Cook State Recreation Area on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, about 10 miles north of the bustling town of Kenai.
Nikiski is an oil and gas town, with onshore production facilities and offshore drilling platforms in Cook Inlet. The community’s more than 4,000 residents mostly work in and around this industry, and the discovery of oil on the peninsula in 1957 is what led Nikiski to grow from a small homesteading community to what it is today.
Things to do
Nine miles north of Nikiski on the Kenai Spur Highway is Captain Cook State Recreation Area, a 3,460-acre state park that is one of the main draws for visitors to the area. This quiet state recreation area encompasses forests, lakes, rivers, and wide beaches along Cook Inlet and features incredible views of the Alaska Range volcanoes. The state recreation area is home to a campground, hiking trails, boat launch, even a bathhouse and a swimming area on Stormy Lake, which is also a good spot for paddling and fishing in the summer and ice fishing in the winter.
Birders will find Captain Cook State Recreation Area an excellent destination, with possible sightings including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, arctic and common loons, golden-eye ducks, mergansers, thrushes, warblers, and jays.
The Swanson River empties into the Cook Inlet in the area, attracting the attention of anglers casting for silver and red salmon and rainbow trout. This is also the west end of the Swanson River Canoe Trail, an 80-mile paddle through the wilderness heart of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The Swanson River system links more than 40 lakes and 46 miles of river in the northern lowlands of the refuge.
For those looking for an indoor adventure, the Nikiski Pool at Mile 23.4 of the Kenai Spur Highway features a large heated pool, 136-foot-long waterslide, and hot tubs. Outside there are picnic facilities and a playground.