Part of the state park system, this preserved area is home to some of the greatest sportfishing on earth
The Kenai River, often referred to as the world's greatest sportfishing 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 (KRSMA) as a unit of the state park system, which includes more than 105 linear miles of rivers and lakes.
The popularity of the Kenai River, one of the most heavily used fresh-water fisheries in Alaska, puts a strain on its resources. In response to increasing threats to the river system's health, the legislature established the Kenai River Special Management Area in 1984, which carved the way for a comprehensive management plan to be implemented to protect the Kenai River and its natural resources. The KRSMA management area includes 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 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 97.4 pounds, easily topping the previous world record of 93 pounds.
Four habitat types are important to this area for fish and wildlife resources of the Kenai River: stream bank ecosystems, contiguous wetlands, the 100-year floodplain and tidal marshes. Each of these offers distinct protections for fish and wildlife.
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 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.
This area offers plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating, camping and wildlife viewing. Several tour operators provide guided excursions to help visitors fully enjoy the river's rich and diverse nature, while public access facilities and campgrounds are readily available throughout the park system for independent travelers.