Soldotna is located at the intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur Highways on the Kenai Peninsula, 140 miles from Anchorage and 70 miles from Homer, and was founded when the highways were completed in the 1940s. The town is situated around the Kenai River and is a major destination for fishing.
About Soldotna (Dena'ina Athabascan: Ts’eldat’nu)
Each summer, thousands of Alaska residents and visitors stream into Soldotna on a quest for legendary Kenai River salmon. In fact, the world’s largest king salmon was plucked from the waters of the Kenai River in 1985 and the 97.2-pound trophy now hangs on the wall of the Soldotna Visitor Information Center. Biologists believe genetics and the fact that Kenai River salmon often spend an extra year at sea account for their gargantuan size. A trophy salmon elsewhere in Alaska is a 50-pound fish, while here, anglers don't get too excited until a king salmon tops 75 pounds.
Things to do
Soldotna is one of the most fish-crazy places in Alaska during the summer and the fastest-growing city on the Kenai Peninsula with a population of more than 4,600 residents. Soldotna is a full-service community and well set up for the wave of anglers who flock here from mid-May through September to catch red, silver, and especially king salmon in the lower Kenai River.
Numerous charter guides in the area and use drift boats to float their clients over to the best holes and runs in the Kenai River. Everything a visitor needs to catch a king can be found in the sport and tackle shops in town. Soldotna has even constructed several public fish walks at Centennial Park Campground, Swiftwater Park Campground, Soldotna Creek Park, and behind the Visitor Information Center to make the river more accessible to bank anglers. All of Soldotna’s boardwalks have public access and are free for your enjoyment.
Not interested in fishing? Soldotna also offers many other attractions including the Soldotna Homestead Museum, with a wonderful collection of homesteaders' cabins spread through six wooded acres in Centennial Park. One of the cabins served as a one-room schoolhouse and others include historic displays, including a replica of the $7.2-million check the U.S. paid Russia to purchase Alaska in 1867.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center features displays on the lifecycles of salmon, daily films and presentations at its theater, and other natural history exhibits. Outside are two short loop trails that wind into the nearby woods and to a viewing platform on Headquarters Lake. Here you can find information on recreation opportunities including hiking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, and camping in the 2 million acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Golfers can hit the links at two area golf courses that include pro shops, lounges, and cart rentals.
Staying and Eating in Soldotna
Several lodging options can be found right on the banks of the Kenai River for quick access to fishing, including hotels, inns, fishing lodges, B&Bs, campgrounds, and RV parks. A good selection of restaurants, two local breweries, and a couple of grocery stores are located in town along the Sterling Highway.