The town of Kenai sits on a bluff above the mouth of the Kenai River overlooking Cook Inlet. With over 7,000 residents, it’s the largest town on the Kenai Peninsula. Across the inlet to the southwest rise Redoubt and Iliamna, active volcanoes at the head of the Aleutian Range.
The Alaska Range is visible to the northwest. Beluga whales sometimes enter the mouth of the river on the incoming tides to look for fish.
Kenai is the second-oldest permanent settlement in Alaska, founded by Russian fur traders who built St. Nicholas Redoubt in 1791. The U.S. Army built its own fort, Kenay, in 1869, two years after the Great Land changed hands. Oil was discovered offshore in 1957, followed by natural gas two years later, and now Kenai is the largest and most industrialized city on the peninsula.
Several of the 15 Cook Inlet platforms are visible from shore. The oil and gas are processed at two petroleum refineries, a liquefied natural gas plant, and a fertilizer plant, all in nearby Nikiski. The rich past has been buried by a rather boring present where town isn’t much more than a series of intersections and gas stations.
Getting to Kenai
Both Era Aviation (a.k.a. Frontier Alaska, 907/266-8394 or 800/866-8394, www.frontierak.com) and Grant Aviation (907/235-2757 or 888/359-4726, www.flygrant.com) offer daily flights between Kenai Airport and Anchorage. Alaska West Air (907/776-5147, www.alaskawestair.com) has flightseeing and charters. Call Alaska Cab (907/283-6000) or Inlet Taxi (907/283-4711) for rides into town.
A number of companies rent cars and vans at the Kenai Airport (www.kenaiairport.com): Avis (907/283-7900 or 800/331-1212), Budget (907/283-4506 or 800/527-0770), Hertz (907/283-7979 or 800/478-7980), and Payless (907/283-6428 or 800/729-5377).
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition