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Kenai Wilderness

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Tustumena Glacier ends in Iceberg Lake.
Library image #2005: Iceberg Lake, Tustumena Glacier


The United States Congress designated the Kenai Wilderness (map) in 1980 and it now has a total of 1,354,247 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Alaska and is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.


For almost 100 years, the Kenai Peninsula has attracted hunters of moose, Dall sheep, and other wild game. In 1941 President Roosevelt designated more than 1.7 million acres as the Kenai National Moose Range. Since then, the Moose Range was expanded and renamed the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Kenai Wilderness makes up well over half of the refuge. The area comprises the western slopes of the Kenai Mountains with their ancient glaciers rising from sea level in the northern portion of the Wilderness to 6,612 feet in the southern portion, nine river systems (many originating from the expansive Harding Ice Field), and the spruce-birch lowland forest that extends to the shores of Cook Inlet. Kenai Wilderness receives approximately 22 inches of precipitation, each year. Common plant species in the area include Sitka spruces, mountain hemlock, Sitka alder, black cottonwood, devil's club , lady fern , Alaska blueberry ,watermelon berry, baneberry, elderberry, salmonberry, fireweed, and a variety of mosses and lichens.

Unlike most of Alaska's wildlands, Kenai lies near Anchorage and draws scores of human visitors to its scenic grandeur. More than 200 miles of established trails give access to much of the backcountry. Hundreds of splendid small lakes are accessible through a system of canoe trails, including the popular Swanson River Canoe Trail. Fishing brings many people to the area, including fly-ins to more remote lakes. Motorized boats are allowed on the larger lakes but not on the canoe trails. Kenai produces an abundant crop of wild berries. Brown bears are relatively scarce here except in the less-visited places. Many species of mammals and birds call Kenai home. The howling of wolves often breaks the night stillness. Be prepared for insects. The warmest temperatures come in July and average between 46 F to 68 F; the coldest come in January and average between 9 F to 25 F.

Planning to Visit the Kenai Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Kenai Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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