When George Heim started Alaska River Adventures nearly four decades ago, he was an avid rafter who had experienced the thrill of navigating many backcountry rivers. Over the years, he and the crew at Alaska River Adventures have guided thousands of visitors through some of these most scenic and wild places in Alaska.
Alaska River Adventures Kenai River rafting trips are some of its most popular and accessible excursions – and are a great value too. Full day trips showcase 19 miles of Alaska wild from Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake, giving plenty of time for spotting wildlife, historic spots and gorgeous views from all angles.
The Upper Kenai Scenic Float - Half Day
When you have just a few hours, a scenic and serene 14-mile float of the Upper Kenai River provides a variety of sights, from historic Cooper Landing and the world famous Russian River combat fishing area, to spectacular views of the Kenai itself – an emerald green ribbon winding through rugged mountain ranges. What’s around the bend? Finding out is much of the fun, as your guide points out Dall sheep, eagle nests built among the cottonwoods, and salmon navigating the waters. Keep a look out for large mammals, too. While never guaranteed, visitors often spot moose and bear along the shoreline. This is a mild scenic float trip, perfect for all ages and abilities. (You likely won’t even get wet). Your guide does the paddling and shares background info on the landscape, flora and fauna, so you can sit back and enjoy the sights and stories. Departures are at 9 am, 2 pm and 6 pm daily. (George’s tip: Book the 6 pm float for the best chance of seeing bear and moose, which tend to rest off in the shelter of the trees during the day).
Full Day Trips
Want to explore more? Two options for full day excursions include either a longer stretch of the river, or a stop to try your hand at an Alaskan tradition – gold prospecting. Full day options include all the necessary gear, plus a delicious lunch. Large groups are welcome!
Kenai River Canyon Scenic Float
Explore more of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, including areas only accessible by boat. This 7-8 hour trip follows the 14-mile stretch of the Kenai River included in the half-day trip, plus an additional 5 miles winding through the heart of the refuge. The route no longer follows the road, making for a truly wild and remote experience, with rugged mountains looming above as you travel through narrow gorges in the Kenai River Canyon. The Kenai River flows at its fastest here, so you’ll also experience some Class II+ rapids. You’ll end at the glacially fed (and crystal-clear) 15-mile long Skilak Lake, a locally preferred get-away. A gentle 1.5-mile hike along Hidden Creek trail to the van affords more views of the snow-capped mountains and grassy marshes. Departs at 10 am daily.
The Kenai Gold Prospector - Full Day
The lure of gold brought thousands of people to Alaska in the 1800s – and there are still prospectors working today. “Prospector John” joins you on this trip, which combines history and techniques of gold prospecting along with a scenic float of the Upper Kenai River. This full day adventure begins at 8 am, as Prospector John (who you may recognize from a few Alaska reality tv shows) acquaints you with the tips and tricks of gold panning and sluice box operation.
Once you’ve learned the basics, it’s time to put your new skills into action. Travel by raft down to a tributary of the captivating Kenai River. John will lead you upstream to a gravel bar, where you’ll set up shop and pan for gold in the cold, clear water. Like prospectors of old, you never know what you’ll find. The chance for an amazing discovery – and the rugged yet peaceful nature of your surroundings – gives you a taste of what prospectors experienced in Alaska more than 150 years ago. When it’s time to leave the prospecting behind, your scenic float will continue on through part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where you can relax as your guide provides an ecologic description of the land formations and what makes this area so compelling. The Upper Kenai River Valley attracts abundant bird life and wildlife. Keep a look out for moose, bear, Dall sheep and mountain goats, which are frequently sighted. Eagle nests – and their inhabitants – are common, so check out the tops of the cottonwoods as you float along. This mild and serene rafting trip is appropriate and fun for all ages.
Alaska River Adventures: Safety + fun
It’s Alaska, and it’s water – so safety is Alaska River Adventures’ number one priority. All guides have a rigorous training regime for rafting and practice safe habits throughout the excursion (including van transportation).
Another priority is making sure visitors have a good time. Guides are local to Cooper Landing, know the area well and are fun-loving characters. Come with a great attitude, and rain or shine, you’ll have an unforgettably fun adventure.
Alaska offers an abundance of experiences, whether it’s exploring the rivers, fishing, flying into backcountry areas, or cruising the bays in search of sealife. Alaska River Adventures wants you to get the most out of your stay in the 49th state, and can advise you – and help you set up – the activities that interest you most. Got some of the family who want a scenic float and others who want to fish all day? Or are some interested in horseback riding or a day cruise out of Seward? Alaska River Adventures will help you schedule these, and also offers transport to get you there. Ask about multi-day lodge packages too, which offer added convenience and time for exploring.
What to Bring
- Dress in layers (thermal socks recommended)
- Snacks for half-day trips
- Waders/boots and rain gear provided
Cooper Landing, AK 99572
By Car: Located in Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula, just 2.5 scenic hours from Anchorage (1 hour from Seward, Soldotna or Kenai). Watch for the Alaska River Adventure sign at milepost 48 of the Sterling Highway.
By Plane: You can also access Cooper Landing quickly with a short plane ride (additional fees apply). Talk to Alaska River Adventures about setting this up when you make your reservation.
Prices & Dates
|Season||May 1 - Oct 1|
|Duration||3 - 9 hrs|
|Rates||Upper Kenai Scenic Float // 3 hours | $59 per person + tax | children 12 & under half price|
|Kenai River Canyon Scenic Float // 7 - 8 hours | $155 per person + tax | children 12 & under half price|
|The Kenai Gold Prospector // 9 hours | $289 per person + tax|