Two canoe routes—the Swanson River Route and the Swan Lake Route—are accessible by Swanson River Road, a right turn off the Sterling Highway at Mile 84. Both offer a wonderful way to explore the refuge. Pick up the Fish and Wildlife Service brochure Canoeing in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge for detailed information.
Three companies provide canoe or kayak rentals and guided trips tailored to your interest and abilities:
- Weigner’s Backcountry Guiding
- Alaska Canoe & Campground
- Kenai Outdoor Canoe & Kayak
Kenai Canoe Trails by Daniel L. Quick is a useful guidebook for anyone heading out on the refuge’s lakes.
Located on the northern Kenai Peninsula, Swan Lake Canoe Route is the most popular canoeing area within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This 60-mile route encompasses 30 lakes that are connected by fairly short portages (the longest is under 1 mile). The entire 60-mile route can be traversed in less than a week. In addition, the route provides access to a 17-mile float down the gentle Moose River. Canoeing on this system offers not only scenic beauty but also excellent wildlife-viewing and good rainbow trout fishing.
The Swanson River Canoe Route links 40 small lakes on the northern Kenai Peninsula, and also includes a 46-mile stretch of the Swanson River. The lakes are connected by portages of varying lengths and conditions, but they are more difficult than those on the nearby Swan Lake Canoe Route. Traveling from the Paddle Lake entrance (at Mile 12 on Swan Lake Rd.), trips can stretch from a long weekend to over a week. In remote lake areas of the Swanson River Route east of Pepper Lake, travel is difficult and the routes and portages are often indistinct.
This is true wilderness and can be challenging. Bring a compass, an accurate map, a pair of hip waders, and a lot of patience.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition