North and South of Kenai: Kalifornsky and Kasilof River

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When you stop in the mid-Kenai Peninsula, you’ll find stores and motels at Soldotna, and some sightseeing and wildlife in the city of Kenai.  But what if you explore the coast, to the north and south?  I had a few hours before sunset, so I decided to find out.  Mostly, I figured that a place with the weird and wonderful name of Kalifornsky must be pretty cool.  But, I didn’t find a lot to hold my interest in either direction.

Location

Soldotna is located on the Sterling Highway, Alaska 1.  It’s a good place to stop between Anchorage and Homer.  The City of Kenai is just a few miles to the northwest, on a spur road.  From Kenai, you can follow the spur road north towards Nikiski, or take Bridge Access Road to Kalifornsky Beach Road, and head south along the coast.

My Visit

After spending some time at Kenai Beach, and resolving to return to the beach for the sunset (assuming I didn’t find any better places for photography), I drove north.  The road stayed away from the coast, almost the entire time, and instead I found myself driving through an area with an industrial feel.  Numerous oil companies have operations along this road. I made it as far as the Nikiski Pool and Recreation Center, and decided to turn around.  On the map, it does look like, maybe, there are a couple of side roads further north, that access the coastline.

I didn’t stop anywhere for pictures along this stretch of road.  My only stop was for gas.  You can check out the Drivelapse video to see what it looks like — but I didn’t see much of interest.

Disappointed with Nikiski, I backtracked south on the spur road, drove through downtown Kenai, took the bridge across the Kenai River, and headed down Kalifornsky Beach Road.  This road stays close to the coast, but as far as I could see, the entire coastline is private property.  You can’t see most of the houses from the road, but a quick check of Zillow reveals everything from hunting shacks and very basic homes, all the way up to $500,000 vacation houses with incredible views across the Cook Inlet.  But, for the casual road-tripper, there’s little to see.

The name Kalifornsky may have its roots in the local native language, where “Kali” meant fisherman. Most likely, though, it’s also a derivative of the Russian word for “Californian”.

I only found one place that provided public access to the waterfront, and it was a few miles south of Kalifornsky Beach, at the community of Kasilof.  Here, the Kasilof River flows into the Cook Inlet…

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… and there’s a very unimproved beach area where you can walk out to the water.

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The Kasilof River Special Use Area allows people to camp for two or three weeks.  There were a few people here, and they looked like the kind of people that either a) are good, decent people who just want to get away from it all, or b) you might see on an episode of Alaska State Troopers.

I’m really not sure why there were milk jugs tied to stakes…

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… as well as some roped-off areas.

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The whole place made me feel like I wasn’t sure whether or not I was supposed to be there.  And since it wasn’t any more spectacular than Kenai Beach, up the road, I decided to head back there for the sunset.  After all, my shadow legs were getting pretty long.

As of late 2015, there were plans in the works to add a large parking area at the Kasilof River Special Use Area. Articles in the local papers suggested that residents were opposed to the changes, because they could impact wildlife and would likely draw big crowds of visitors. But, if the plans move forward, Kasilof Beach could look much different when you get there.

I don’t want to be unfair to Kasilof.  There’s more to the community than I had time to explore.  The Kasilof River and Tustumena Lake both provide excellent opportunities for fishermen.  Also, the beach area on the south side of the river might be more appealing than what I saw on the north side.  I’m not saying that the area is not worth visiting, but it might not be ideal for someone with limited time, looking for some nice places to make a brief stop and enjoy the view.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive north, and south, from Kenai, including the Kalifornsky and Kasilof areas:

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