Photo Credit: Jim Taylor

Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Audio Guide

Known as Alaska’s Playground, the Kenai Peninsula is one of the state’s most beautiful and accessible areas. A wealth of roads and trails offers the potential for amazing wildlife viewing: birds, seabirds, whales, bears, moose, and caribou are all here. Of course, these critters don’t just magically appear when you walk by. So we consulted longtime wildlife biologists to put together an audio guide to three dozen hot spots that offer the best chance of spotting wildlife. We’ll take you to specific points—everywhere from the highway to backcountry trails—and give you detailed advice on where to look and what to listen for. This tour vastly increases your chances of seeing the Kenai Peninsula’s unique wildlife. Don’t go to the Kenai without it!

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Points of Interest

Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Audio Guide

Sounds Wild: Moth­er Bat­sThis recre­ation­al site has a series of loop trails that pass two small lakes. Park in the park­ing lot and take the path to your left as you face the build­ings; this will lead you to the trail­head. The trail is great for view­ing wood­land birds and loons on the lake. As evening approach­es, look for bats fly­ing over the lake feed­ing on insects. Bats are hard to see because they are very secre­tive and do not become active…  ...more

Stop off here dur­ing the sum­mer for an eagle’s eye view of an annu­al Alaskan fish­ing fren­zy. We real­ly love our salmon, and it shows! Or, just count the bald eagles cir­cling high overhead.

Sounds Wild: Eagles Life­time MatesWant to see a soar­ing eagle up close? Stop at this site near the senior cen­ter and walk out toward the bluff – not too close as the bluff is erod­ing. Eagles play in the wind along the bluff. If not fly­ing they can be seen on the mud flats at low tide– look­ing for food that has washed downstream.More Information   ...more

Choose this site and you have a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to spot some charis­mat­ic megafau­na.” Moose and cari­bou can often be found graz­ing along this oil­field ser­vice road, which runs adja­cent to some prime wildlife habitat.

Sounds Wild: PhalaropesHun­dreds of red-necked phalaropes can be seen from the end of the Homer Spit dur­ing their spring and fall migra­tions. Look for these small birds spin­ning in cir­cles on the water. They do this to con­cen­trate food. These whirling liv­ing tops are a joy to watch. They tend to be in small flocks, which can make spot­ting them easier.More Information   ...more

Def­i­nite­ly keep your eyes open here, there’s vol­ca­noes, bel­u­ga whales, har­bor seals, and tons of birdlife to be seen — depend­ing on the sea­son and weath­er, of course. Extra cred­it if you spot an owl!

Sounds Wild: Pond-Bot­tom MooseThe wet­lands where the Kenai Spur High­way cross­es Beaver Creek are great for view­ing moose in the ear­ly morn­ing or late evening. Like most streams on the Kenai Penin­su­la, the stream­side veg­e­ta­tion con­sists of wil­lows- a favorite food of moose. Look to your right as you head toward Kenai and check out all the wet­land areas for the next cou­ple of miles.More Information   ...more

Not Steinbeck’s clas­sic nov­el, but a fan­tas­tic adven­ture, com­muning with a 30,000-member her­ring gull colony. It’s a one-of-a-kind expe­ri­ence you won’t want to miss.

Let’s go cari­bou-spot­ting on the wide open spaces at the mouth of the world-famous riv­er sys­tem. This spot is one of your best bets for view­ing these beau­ti­ful, state­ly beasts.

Sounds Wild: Cari­bou Cari­bou can be seen any­where on the Kenai Riv­er estu­ar­ine area but are more fre­quent­ly seen on the east side of the Bridge Access Road. They have their calves here in the spring and feed the rest of the sum­mer and fall. They are com­mon­ly seen but there are no guar­an­tees with cari­bou. More Information 

Walk out to the board­walks along the Kenai Riv­er, learn about river­ine habi­tat and the salmon life­cy­cle, and wit­ness the time­less dance of hunter and hunt­ed, of fish and fish­er. One year-round res­i­dent here will impress you with their win­ter sur­vival skills.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles

The Keen-Eye Nature Trail is .75 miles long through a wood­ed area with a side trail lead­ing down to Head­quar­ters Lake. The Cen­ten­ni­al Trail pro­vide an addi­tion­al 1.9 mile loop through a wood­ed area with fur­ther oppor­tu­ni­ty to view wildlife in the area.

Stretch your legs here and check out one of the favorite rest stops for thou­sands of Kenai Riv­er salmon on their jour­ney home. We’ll also seek out giant trum­peter swans, red-necked grebes, and of course, fish­ers of anoth­er species — humans. Here at the con­flu­ence, the two rivers reveal their source waters in a very clear visu­al demonstration.

Sounds Wild: Alaska’s Drag­on­sWat­son Lake is a shal­low lake that is full of veg­e­ta­tion – just the right spot for drag­on­flies and oth­er crit­ters. Stand­ing at the boat launch and camp­ing area, look out across the lake for these large fly­ing insects. Red-necked grebes, rusty black­birds and loons are also found on the lake. Most lakes on the Kenai Penin­su­la can be a good spot for dragonflies.More Information   ...more

You’ll either enjoy a peace­ful walk through a seclud­ed and beau­ti­ful estu­ary ripe with birdlife — or have a ring­side seat at the annu­al salmon dip­net­ting extrav­a­gan­za, fea­tur­ing hordes of crazed locals armed with 10-foot poles. The beach road emerges from the for­est at a riv­er-mouth lined by dunes, tidal­ly influ­enced beach, an estu­ary and broad salt marsh.

Join us as we drift down­stream through one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful fresh­wa­ter salmon fish­eries, pass­ing grav­el bars left by a glacial flood, migrat­ing salmon, brown bears, and human fish­ers as you float on by.

Sounds Wild: Spar­rows­Sa­van­nah spar­rows love to sing and hide in the grass. How­ev­er, some­times they will perch on a fence, small trees or brush piles in this estu­ar­ine area. Walk along the beach toward the Kasilof Riv­er and look at the large flats to your right. In addi­tion to spar­rows you will see arc­tic terns, numer­ous her­ring, mew gulls and migrat­ing shore­birds in the spring and fall.More Information   ...more

King salmon are famous for being the largest salmon species. Here’s your chance to see some kings (oth­er­wise known as chi­nooks) up close as they pose” for your pho­tos, and learn about their fas­ci­nat­ing lifecycle.

Sounds Wild: Porky Babies­Porcu­pines are not often seen along the main paved roads of the Kenai Penin­su­la. You have to get off on the grav­el side roads that pass through their habi­tat. Tus­tu­me­na Lake road trav­els through the Kenai Wildlife Refuge and ends at the Kasilof Riv­er camp­ground. This road is great for view­ing var­i­ous birds includ­ing spruce grouse, thrush­es and chick­adees. Moose are found along this road and if you are real­ly lucky, a…  ...more

Wit­ness giant trac­tors tow­ing the Kenai Penin­su­la’s fleet out to water’s edge and launch­ing them into the tide on their quest for fish. You can camp here, scout for wildlife, fish for steel­head, and enjoy some of the best puf­fin view­ing on the Kenai.

Difficulty: Easy

Every­one wants to explore a tide­pool, don’t they? This is a must for the kids — even that lit­tle kid in those slight­ly more mature vis­i­tors. Here’s the per­fect spot. Bring a tow­el and let’s have an inter­tidal adventure.

To all the oth­er great rea­sons to vis­it Homer, add plen­ti­ful shore­birds, seabirds, marine mam­mals, and a ring of stun­ning moun­tain peaks sur­round­ing Kachemak Bay. The Islands and Ocean Vis­i­tors Cen­ter puts the icing on this cake.

Sounds Wild: Marked Mam­malsSea lions come and go in the Homer area but one spot to check out is the fish pro­cess­ing plant at the south end of the small boat har­bor. When com­mer­cial fish­er­men unload their catch, some fish and crabs are thrown over­board. Sea lions love this easy meal. Watch the har­bor entrance as sea lions some­times like to swim just out­side this con­gest­ed dock area. How­ev­er, the best way to see them is to take a cruise in the…  ...more

Sounds Wild: Ravens Hot­Wher­ev­er there is food, you will find ravens and north­west crows. In fact crows love peo­ple and their food. At the Homer Small Boat Har­bor you can find these birds feed­ing along the shore, in the camp­grounds and perched on the sur­round­ing tele­phone poles and buildings.More Information 

Sounds Wild: Altri­cial­For many years an elder­ly lady fed eagles at this spot dur­ing the win­ter months: The Eagle Lady of Homer Spit.” Her house was right on the beach and she received fish waste from a local fish proces­sor, which she would then give to the hun­dreds of eagles that would show up for their dai­ly feed­ing. After she passed away this prac­tice of feed­ing the eagles was stopped.More Information   ...more

Sounds Wild: Under­ground Seabird­sA great spot on the Kenai Penin­su­la to see a large group of seabirds nest­ing is Gull Island out of Homer. This short three-mile boat ride across Kachemak Bay is great for fam­i­lies. You’ll also find red-faced cor­morants, com­mon mur­res, puffins, eagles, mur­relets, sea otters, har­bor seals, sea lions and even whales.More Information   ...more

Sounds Wild: Thar She BlowsWhales, dol­phins, sea otters, har­bor seals and sea lions are all vis­i­ble in Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park. While you might see some of these ani­mals from shore, the best option is a day cruise out of Seward. A num­ber of com­pa­nies offer these ser­vices and you will not be dis­ap­point­ed. Glac­i­ers and birds top the list.More Information   ...more

Just south of Seward you could spot hump­back whales, sea lions, bird life and old growth for­est habi­tat. There’s a great sand beach at the end that will reward your explo­ration, so let’s go!

At the Seward Small Boat Har­bor look out at the rock jet­ties and buoys. Eagles like to sit on these spots and mon­i­tor their domain. Food is also plen­ti­ful from fish­er­man clean­ing fish, seabirds that stay in the area and fish that return to the streams nearby.

By mid­day, fish­ing boats have returned with their catch. Walk over to the fish clean­ing tables to see hal­ibut, salmon, and oth­er quar­ry from the deep. 

You can hike right up to Seward’s Exit Glac­i­er and feel the dense blue ice while lis­ten­ing to it crack­le. Walk the low­er trail to get a good pho­to in front of the glac­i­er face. Or, choose the more chal­leng­ing 7‑mile round-trip Hard­ing Ice­field Trail. There is a short ranger-led walk dai­ly at 11am and 3pm, from Memo­r­i­al Day through Labor Day. 

The salmon life­cy­cle and a work­ing salmon-count­ing oper­a­tion is on the menu here, as well as a fresh salmon for your din­ner, if you time your vis­it just right. Hear how!

Great sock­eye salmon obser­va­tion site, espe­cial­ly in late July and ear­ly August. At oth­er times of year it offers a mod­er­ate walk up to Ptarmi­gan Lake that’s great for fam­i­lies and fea­tures lots of bird life.

Sounds Wild: Birds Smell­Tern Lake has lots to offer but few peo­ple use the old Ster­ling high­way to access the bore­al for­est near this lake. Dri­ve into the recre­ation­al area and as you turn left toward the restrooms you will see an old road to your right. You can walk for miles down this road and enjoy the smell of the woods and the sound of the birds.More Information   ...more

Sounds Wild: Loon­sAs you approach Sum­mit Lakes, look for com­mon loons. Most of the time they are found at the south­ern end of the lakes near the shore but can be any­where, so stop at the lodge and road pull­outs to look at the lake sur­face. Moose can some­times be seen in the marsh areas at the end of the lakes.More Information 

Grab your optics and let’s take in the 360-degree view here at the start of the Kenai Riv­er, Alaska’s world-renowned salmon fish­ing hot spot. See wildlife up on the hill­sides, song­birds, water­fowl, and the bril­liant ice-blue Kenai Lake and Riv­er. Breathtaking.

Sounds Wild: Trees Need SalmonAs you dri­ve toward Sol­dot­na you will see the Kenai Riv­er on your left. This riv­er has thou­sands of salmon spawn­ing in it each year. Most­ly sock­eye or red salmon but also coho or sil­ver salmon, chi­nook or king salmon and pink or humpy salmon. After these salmon die, they float down­stream and are deposit­ed along the river­bank where they decom­pose and pro­vide food to the river­side plants.More Information   ...more

This wildlife sweet spot is worth a vis­it. The Russ­ian Lakes Trail begins off the access road to the Russ­ian Riv­er Camp­ground in Coop­er Land­ing, at mile­post 52 of the Ster­ling High­way. Get off-the-beat­en path, hike two miles to the falls and enjoy the imme­di­ate reward of spec­tac­u­lar salmon viewing. 

Thou­sands of sock­eye salmon migrate up Hid­den Creek each year in late July and ear­ly August. With salmon come bears to feed on them. As you dri­ve through this area, you may be able to spot bears at the Ski­lak Road cross­ing of the creek near the Hid­den Lake Camp­ground turnoff. 

Sounds Wild: One Ton Bison­Look for Alaska’s biggest land mam­mal in the bison cage here at the Alas­ka Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter. More Information