Alaska Wildlife Viewing in Kenai
From the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to the belugas in the Cook Inlet, Kenai has ideal opportunities for Alaska wildlife viewing. Keep your eyes peeled as you never know when you might see moose ambling down the street. And it’s not uncommon to see brown bears and black bears wandering through natural areas in and around town.
Launch Your Wilderness Adventure in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Kenai is within easy road access of the nearly two-million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, an undisturbed wilderness that supports caribou, moose, brown and black bears, mountain goats, Dall sheep, wolves, lynx, wolverines, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl.
Whether you hike a trail into the alpine, paddle through the 100-mile canoe trail system, or camp for the night, it is a true wilderness experience.
From ice fields and glaciers to tundra, forests, and coastal wetlands, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is often called “Alaska in miniature.” The biodiversity of this park is unusually high for this latitude because of two biomes that come together: the coastal rainforest of Sitka spruce and the western-most reach of boreal forest in North America. .
The beautiful Kenai River originates in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and travels towards the Cook Inlet. Known for its unique turquoise water, the Kenai River is the epicenter of Alaskan sportfishing and the massive migration of salmon every summer.
Bear Viewing in Kenai
If you are ready for a bear viewing experience of a lifetime, a short flight across Cook Inlet takes you to the world-class bear viewing locations in Lake Clark National Park, Wolverine Creek, or Chinitna Bay. Reserve a cabin, backcountry camp, or book an air charter today with one of our local aviation companies.
The coastal brown bear is one of the largest species of bears on Earth. Each spring they emerge from their dens to feast on salmon – and just about everything else – to build up fat stores for winter hibernation. There are many guided bear viewing excursions available in the area, which will get you a closer view of one of the world’s largest land predators.
Head to Kenai Beach!
Experience a day at the beach watching waterfowl, bald eagles, and moose feeding on foliage. Kenai is known for its long sandy beaches that stretch all along the coastline of the Cook Inlet.
To access North Beach by car, take South Spruce Street off the Kenai Spur Highway.
If you prefer foot access, try the Meeks Trail from Old Town Kenai or try walking from Kenai Municipal Park located next to the bluff overlooking the lower Cook Inlet. There is staircase access to North Beach and a viewing point located at the end of Forest Drive.
The South Beach is accessed from Old Cannery Road off Cannery Road. There is easy parking and turnaround areas for RV’s and campers at both North and South Beach. In July, both areas are busy with the personal use dipnet salmon fishery, and parking fees may apply.
Kenai River Flats and the Kenai Wildlife Viewing Platform
Stop by the Kenai Wildlife Viewing Platform located near the City Dock for bird viewing opportunities.
Bird watchers have plenty of opportunities throughout the year to find the best wildlife viewing by touring the different access points to the Kenai River flats.
Watch for harbor seals and beluga whales from March through April. In early May, sandhill cranes and other migrating waterfowl feed, shorebirds work along the banks, and several species of owls patrol the flats. Caribou forage from June through August.
Viewing locations may also be found at the Kenai River Flats Board Walk on Bridge Access Road and at the end of Cannery Road.
Fun Fact: Despite the Kenai River being one of the most heavily fished rivers in Alaska, beluga whales can be seen as far as eight miles upriver. The best time to view beluga whales is just after low tide and well before high tide.
Bluff Overlook and Kenai Open Spaces
Kenai’s parks and trail system offers a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities.
Watch for beluga whales as they feed on fish in the Kenai River and Cook Inlet from Cunningham Park, the Scenic Bluff Overlook located at the end of Spur View Drive, or from the overlook on the steep bluff at Erik Hansen Scout Park.
Take in the view from East End Trail or Ryan’s Creek Trail north of Airport Way and you might encounter the Kenai lowland caribou herd in the summer months. The herd often makes its way between the Kenai River flats to north of the City of Kenai along Marathon Road.