Kenai River Fishing Spots

Wading Access & Public Fishing Spots

It can definitely be challenging to find good spots to wade and fish the Kenai River. This page is one of the most comprehensive guides you’ll find anywhere listing out every public access point we know of on the Kenai River. This guide will cover some of the best spots on the entire Kenai River near the towns of Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, and Cooper Landing. It also has some spots that offer short hikes that may not be as crowded. Also it primarily covers our sockeye salmon, silver salmon, and king salmon fishing opportunities with some emphasis on rainbow trout and dolly varden.

The Kenai River changes pretty dramatically as it transitions from spring to summer and fall so always be aware of current conditions. None of the places described here encroach on private property. Please do your best to remember that the bank, gravel, and vegetation near the water is all critical habitat and do your best to protect it for generations to come.

There is a lot of road access fishing spots on the Kenai River. The spots are all very good for sockeye salmon, some are okay for silver salmon (but not as good as a boat) and none are really great for king salmon. You really need to be in a boat if you hope to land one of the famed Kenai River king salmon. 

We’ll cover a lot of the road accessible fishing spot on the Kenai River and some of the surrounding rivers on this page. We’ll also start on the lower section of the river and work our way to the upper river. There are significantly more public access spots on the lower river simply due to the terrain, geography, and “meandering” of the river during it’s last 20 miles.

The lower Kenai River starts at the Soldotna bridge at approximately river mile 21. The middle Kenai River is from the bridge to the outlet of Skilak Lake, or from river mile 21 to river mile 50. Finally, we have the upper Kenai River, which is from the inlet of Skilak Lake to the Outlet of Kenai like, or river mile 65 to 82. 

The Kenai River is 82 miles long stretching from Cooper Landing and meandering through a number of towns before making its way through the town of Kenai and finally flowing into Cook Inlet. Starting at the headwaters of Kenai Lake it passes through the towns of Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna, and Kenai. It also continues to get larger as it is continually fed by smaller streams such as the Quartz Creek, The Russian River, Moose River, and Funny River just to name a few. 

There are a ton of places to fish on the river and we’ll cover a bunch of them here. Take a minute and enjoy this aerial video of the lower Kenai River starting at the Soldotna bridge and continuing all the way down past eagle rock. The major fishing holes of the lower river are shown as well. And, if you’d like to see what this same section of river looks like in the winter, you can check that out too! 

Road Accessible Fish Spots

Lower Kenai River Fishing Spots

Lower Kenai River Wading Access & Public Fishing Spots​

The Lower Kenai River is one of the most popular sections of river for fishing and is the most heavily fished of the three sections of the Kenai River. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The lower section of the Kenai River meanders a great deal instead of flowing straight into cook inlet. This creates a lot of river with a flow rate that is just right for fishing all species of salmon
  • Fish can spawn in the large number of tributaries of the river. Some will traverse the entire 82 miles and spawn in Kenai Lake. Regardless of where the fish chooses to spawn it has to pass through the lower Kenai River. So while only some percentage of the fish may decide to travel to, Skilak Lake for example, 100% of them must pass through the lower Kenai River
  • It is estimated that 50%-65% of King Salmon will spawn between river mile 10 (Eagle Rock) and river mile 36 (Moose River confluence). Kings are a major draw of the river and just like the explanation for sockeye salmon above, regardless of where these king salmon choose to spawn, 100% of them will pass through the lower section of river
  • The towns of Kenai and Soldotna have the majority of the resources surrounding the river. With 2 Safeways, Three Bears, Fred Meyers, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and dozens of restaurants all within minutes of the river it’s nice to have access to all of that within just a few minutes drive of where you are fishing

Read on to learn more details about many of the public access places that still provide a quality fishing experience.

Cunningham Park

Cunningham Park is one of the first public accessible areas to fish areas on the lower Kenai River. The big tidal swings of Cook Inlet have a major impact on this river all the way to River mile 12. So Cunningham Park still sits within the heavily tidally influenced area of the river. Water height and water speed changes a lot here every 6 hours. It’s a good place to fish for sockeye but be prepared for muddy conditions throughout the whole summer. It’s difficult to target silvers and kings here due to the very muddy conditions. Located at river mile 6.5.

The current changes significantly with the tide at this location so it will be difficult to fish for sockeye when the tide in high. So, best time to fish here is when the high tide for the day is not very extreme and at lower tides so there is some current.

Address: 2400 Beaver Loop Rd, Kenai, AK 99611

Eagle Rock Boat Launch

Eagle Rock Boat Launch is an extremely popular place for guides to meet clients so it can be very busy in the morning. It has a nice boat dock but parking an be limited. Many times people will park up by the main highway and walk down.  Eagle Rock, which can be seen from the parking lot area is the last part of the river that is influenced by the tide. Located at river mile 11.25.

There is very good water here if a person is wiling to walk downstream and floss for sockeye salmon or cast and retrieve spinners for silver salmon. Walking into the slough to the left and upstream is a good place to target silver salmon, trout and rainbows.

Address: Eagle Rock Place, Kenai AK 99611

Pillars Boat Launch

Pillars Boat Launch is located only about 1 mile upstream from Eagle Rock. This is also a very busy place as many guides meet their clients here. There is far more parking at Pillars than there is at Eagle Rock. Located at river mile 12.5

There are not a lot of people that bank fish from this location but it is definitely available both upstream and downstream from the dock. The water is starting to get swift here so flossing for sockeye can work well but casting/retrieving spinners for silver salmon will be less productive simply becuase the lure will be swept downstream very quickly.

Address: 155 Silver Salmon Dr, Kenai, AK 99611

Ciechanski Day Use Area

The Ciechanski (Che-Chan-Ski) Day use area has some limited bank fishing opportunities. Primarily upstream from the boat dock. The day use area has limited facilities but does have a bathroom and a couple picnic tables. It’s main purpose was to provide bathroom facilities for boaters. Located at river mile 15.5

The bank starts to form a bluff at this location and it is very steep. However, many people walk upstream along the waters edge where the bluff meets the water. It drops off very quickly so you will be fishing in deep, swift water. There are a lot of fish here and you’ll see a lot of guides bring their clients to these bluffs in their boats. Use a lot of weight because you need to get the leader down to the bottom quickly. Use what you think is a lot of weight, and then use more! 

Address: 36740 Guy Nash St, Kenai, AK 99611

Big Eddy Gravel Bar

Big Eddy Gravel Bar is a really popular area to fish that is accessible by a short hike. It’s called Big Eddy because it is on the opposite side of the river from Big Eddy State Recreation Area. It is an incredibly popular spot for guides and is busy 24/7 when the sockeye are running strong. The reason for this is that the sockeye run nice and tight to the gravel bar, the gravel bar is usually a few inches above the water level and this makes it a great place for kids, older folks, or people with any kind of limited mobility. So, there is quite a few people that hike the 15-20 minutes into this spot, private anglers with boats, and guides. It gets very busy. Many people will bring lunch and spend the day here. Located at river mile 17.0

If you decide to fish here be prepared to hike your fish out, and be prepared to be courteous and wait for a spot to open up. This can take a while. Park at the end of Knackstedt St. and make your way through the trails. You will need CHEST waders in order to cross the back channel to get to the gravel bar. It’s not particularly swift but it is at least hip deep. It’s not for everyone.

Address: Knackstedt St. Then A Short HIke


Big Eddy Day Use Area

The Big Eddy Day Use Area is a very popular fishing spot. This is a 16 acre facility with toilets, picnic tables, and good access to the river. It also has a boat dock and makes for a popular place for guides to make a quick bathroom stop with their clients. Located at river mile 17.

This area doesn’t get particularly crowded usually and it’s a pretty good place to fish for sockeye. Very easy to get to. If you were thinking about doing the hike into the Big Eddy Gravel Bar consider this instead. It’s much easier to get in and out of, and there’s no challenges when you need to try and get your fish back to your vehicle.

Address: 46599 Big Eddy Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669


Pipeline is very similar and very close to the Big Eddy Gravel Bar. It’s actually quite a bit easier to get to because you don’t have to wade across the back channel of the river like you do at the Big Eddy Gravel Bar. It is located at river mile 17.5.

It’s very easy to get to because once you are on Knackstedt St. you’ll see the large natural gas pipeline. Just follow it to the river. This area of the river is quite nice because there is a lot of room to move both upstream and downsteam to find a place to fish. From this vantage point you’ll be looking straight across the river to the poachers cove community.

Address: Knackstedt St. Then short hike

Slikok Creek Day Use Picnic Area

Slikok Creek Day Use Picnic Area is a great place to fish and not very well known for some reason. It has really nice aluminum boardwalk and stairs down into the river. When the sockeye are running this is a great place to be. Located at river mile 19.

Slikok Creek is a really important landmark and demarcation line. There is a regulatory marker (a sign on a metal post) that Alaska Department of Fish and Game uses as a boundary marker for the usage of bait and other regulations. 

Address: 315 Endicott Dr, Soldotna, AK 99669

Centennial Campground

Centennial campground is an absolute gem. If you are looking for overnight riverside camping in a tent or an RV this is your place. There are no hookups and there are no reservations. It is owned and managed by the city of Soldotna and is 121 acres big with 250 or so campsites. It is located at river mile 20.

There is almost 1 mile of bank access downstream from the boat launch and almost another 1 mile of bank access above the boat launch. There is also a big parking lot with lots of fishing access just a few steps away from parking. There is also 8 awesome fish cleaning stations and a raised handicap platform for fishing. Maybe best of all, if you are camping here, you are within walking distance to the heart of Soldotna including the park, Safeway, Sportsman’s Warehouse and all kinds of restaurants and other shopping. 

Address: 349 Centennial Park Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669

Soldotna Visitors Center

The Soldotna Visitors Center is a great place to fish. It’s located right at the Soldotna Bridge that crosses the Kenai River. And, it’s right across the street from Ken’s Alaskan Tackle. That’s convenient! There are stairs leading down to the river and a lot of boardwalk and fishing areas. It is located at river mile 21.

IThe water here is pretty deep and kind of slow moving which can make it difficult to target the sockeye effectively. Still, we see plenty of fish pulled out of here constantly. Because this water is slower moving it does make for a great place to target silvers in mid-August and September. 

Also, Pro Tip – maybe one of the best secrets is that right across the river, about 5 minutes walk is the Kenai River Lodge and Kenai River Bridge Lounge. It’s literally the best place on the river to have a drink and enjoy the view. While they don’t have a kitchen they do keep a lot of the local menus on hand and you can have dinner delivered if you like.

Address: 44790 Sterling Hwy, Soldotna, AK 99669

Middle Kenai River Fishing Spots

Middle Kenai River Wading Access & Public Fishing Spots​

The middle Kenai River officially begins (or ends depending upon which way you’re going!) at the Soldotna Bridge and continues through the town of Sterling and eventually the outlet of Skilak Lake. The area near the bridge is still quite meandering and runs right through the middle of Soldotna. This is a much more rocky section of river and boaters need to have more experience navigating this section of river. There are many more gravel bars and rocks, and remember, the water depth changes dramatically every month from May to Sept peaking in depth in late July.  There are sections that become very difficult to navigate at low water levels. But alas, we are here to discuss wade in opportunities. 

Soldotna Creek Park

Soldotna Creek Park is a great place to fish. There is good river current for targeting sockeye salmon and places of slower holding water to target silver starting in August. The park hosts a variety of events all summer and there is arts and crafts market every Wednesday all summer long and live music concerts starting at 6:00 PM Wednesday evenings. 

The Soldotna Creek Park has 1/2 a mile of board walk and river access. It’s usually not too busy either.

Address: 251 States Ave, Soldotna, AK 99669


Donald E. Gilman River Center "The River Center"

The River Center is a pretty awesome place to fish. It definitely gets crowded during the busiest parts of the summer. The River Center is accessed near the Soldotna Airport on Funny River Road. Located at river mile 22.

The water at the River Center moves at just right speed and it’s also just the right depth. The gravel bar provides a lot of river access even though there is only a couple entry points to the river. Once you descend the stairs and enter the water the river is shallow enough to walk a pretty good distance both upstream and downstream to fish.

Address: 514 Funny River Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669


Rotary Park

Rotary Park is awesome. It’s very convenient to get to and while it gets busy it’s not as well known as a lot of other public access spots like Centennial Campground, Swiftwater Campground, or Bings Landing. There is 600 ft. of boardwalk as well as restroom facilities. It is located at river mile 23.5

What makes Rotary Park so great is the river topography. It’s just upstream from the Gillman center so it shares a lot of the same river traits. This includes knee-deep water that stretches both upstream and downstream for a long ways. Rotary Park is a great place to target sockeye salmon, silver salmon, and trout.

Address: 884 Funny River Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669

Swiftwater Campground

Swift Water Campground is the 2nd of two campgrounds owned and operated by the City of Soldotna. It is about 1/2 the size of Centennial Campground with about 40 camping and RV sites. It extremely convenient to all the resources in town and is definitely one of the best places around to pitch a tent, park an RV, or spend the day fishing. Located at river mile 23.0

The water at Swiftwater moves really well and can even be a great 2nd stop after fishing at Centennial. Fish at Centennial for a while and after a wave of fish comes through and then dives off, jump in your car and target them again at Swiftwater. It’s only about a 10 minute drive between the two campgrounds. 

Address: 675 Swiftwater Park Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669

Moose Range Meadows

Moose Range Meadows is a pretty well-kept secret. It’s accessed by turning down Keystone Drive right at the Fred Meyers on the sterling highway. There is an aluminum boardwalk and makes for great access for people with limited mobility and families with kids. Located at river mile 26.0

The water runs deeper in this area but at a good speed to floss for sockeye. Just be aware of the depth. Its absolutely possible to fish from the boardwalk you will just need to adjust your technique a bit and use heavier weights. 

Address: 33697 Keystone Dr, Soldotna, AK 99669

Funny River State Recreation Site

Funny River Campground is located at the confluence of the Funny river and the Kenai River. It is 11.2 miles down Funny River Road from the Sterling Highway. Located at river mile 30.5

The number of people fishing the south side of the Kenai River gets smaller the further a person travels up Funny River Road, which is some 30 miles in total length. It’s also largely located on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, so it barely needs mentioned that you should watch out for moose. The further you drive down this road the few anglers you’ll find but access also becomes more difficult because the terrain will rise quite high above the river making river access difficult.

Address: 33697 Keystone Dr, Soldotna, AK 99669


Morgan's Landing

Morgans landing is another great area to pitch a tent, park an RV, or just use for daily fishing. It is almost 300 acres with 50 campsites located right in the middle of the middle section of the Kenai River. The campground is located 3.1 miles off the sterling highway. It is located at river mile 31.0 

Morgan’s Landing has great opportunities for both sockeye fishing and silver salmon fishing in the fall starting in the first week of August. 

Address: 35850 Lou Morgan Rd, Sterling, AK 99672


Izaak Walton State Recreation Site

Izaak Walton State Recreation Site is an excellent place for tent camping, RV parking, and day use fishing. The location is also the confluence of the Moose River and the location of the park puts you upstream of the confluence. It is Located at river mile 36.5

The location is perfect for both salmon and trout. Upstream of the moose confluence the water is more clear and flows well with good bottom topography for flossing for sockeye salmon. At the confluence and Kenai River downstream makes great holding water for sockeye salmon. It’s tough to fish for them here due to not very much water movement but when those fish decide to move they come through in massive schools just above the confluence.

Address: Milepost 81, Sterling Hwy, Sterling, AK 99672


Izaak Walton State Recreation Site

Izaak Walton State Recreation Site is an excellent place for tent camping, RV parking, and day use fishing. The location is also the confluence of the Moose River and the location of the park puts you upstream of the confluence. It is Located at river mile 36.5

The location is perfect for both salmon and trout. Upstream of the moose confluence the water is more clear and flows well with good bottom topography for flossing for sockeye salmon. At the confluence and Kenai River downstream makes great holding water for sockeye salmon. It’s tough to fish for them here due to not very much water movement but when those fish decide to move they come through in massive schools just above the confluence.

Address: Milepost 81, Sterling Hwy, Sterling, AK 99672


Upper Kenai River Fishing Spots

Upper Kenai River Wading Access & Public Fishing Spots​

Hardened Trail Pullout

The Hardened Trail Pullout is a very cool place to fish for sockeye and trout. There is no address as it’s simply a pullout along the Sterling Highway but has really nice river access. Parking is limited and it can get pretty busy but nothing like the combat fishing we see up at the Russian River Ferry located just a couple miles upstream.  Located at river mile 71.0

This fishing location is located on an outside turn of the river where the water is very deep and fast moving but there is a lot of fish that move through here. The gravel bar directly across from this location is an excellent place to fish and we often see bears on the other side of the River. 


Sportsman's Landing

Sportsman’s Landing is well-known as a fishing spot for the Russian River. The Russian River confluence is just a few yards upstream and this is also the location of the Russian River Ferry. Sportsman’s Landing is located just below the confluence of the Russian River. Located at 73.5.

There is good fishing throughout this entire area on both sides of the Kenai River but most people will opt for crossing the Ferry and fishing the opposite side bank. For those willing to do some hiking you can cross the ferry and access several miles of river downstream in locations that most people are unwilling to walk. Just remember if you are planning on harvesting fish you have to hike that fish all the way back too. There is so much opportunity for fishing here that this location needs it’s own dedicated page. 

Address: 12455 Sterling Hwy, Cooper Landing, AK 99572

Russian River Campground

The Russian River Campground is a great place to access the Kenai River and equally importantly the Russian River. The campground has 83 camping location, lots of parking for day use, 

The Russian River has two incredible runs of sockeye salmon. It’s one of the first rivers to see sockeye show up early in the summer and the early sockeye run begins as early as June 11th for the early run. Fishing is usually closed right at the confluence but is allowed both before it and after it. The second run starts around July 10th and run well into the later part of August. Pro tip: Get dinner or lunch at Gwins Summer Lodge. Bear awareness is a big deal around here. 

Location: 14865 Sterling Hwy, Cooper Landing, AK 99572

Russian River Falls

The Russian River Falls is one of our absolute favorites on this list. The views of the river, the falls, hiking, sockeye stacked up by the thousands in water so clear you can see them and so thick sometimes you could walk across them. Located 2.3 miles hike from the Russian River Falls Trailhead. 

Fishing at the falls can be great but remember you have to carry your fish back out that same 2.3 miles! We love to mountain bike this trail as well and with a buggy it really makes getting your fish out much easier.

There is a fall run of silver salmon that can be excellent but timing it is tricky and hit-and-miss. The sockeye salmon is the main draw here and the fishing is excellent. The trailhead is well marked, the trail is very easy to follow. Once you reach the viewing platforms there is a sign that points to the sport fishing area which is a single file trail that takes about 10 minutes walk. There are special hook regulations her as well and most people will simply purchase Russian River Flies.

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