Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

        After a summer of fire closures, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is opening up personal use firewood collection starting on Tuesday.

Woodcutting will be permitting along Swan Lake, Swanson River and Funny River roads, within the Dolly Varden Campground, and the unburned areas within the Upper and Lower Skilak campgrounds.

All harvesting is limited to dead and downed trees within the designated areas, and no standing trees, dead or alive may be felled. No off-roading or ATVs are allowed.

With the reduced fire danger and winding down of fire operations, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has re-opened several more recreational facilities previously closed due to the Swan Lake Fire. The Vista Trail, Doroshin Bay Cabin, Hidden Lake and Hidden Lake Campground are open, as is the East Fork Moose River.
    The designated closure area originally established around the fire is also being reduced to the perimeter of the Swan Lake Fire as it was on Sept. 30.

Jade Gamble/Kenai Peninsula Borough


The Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula continues to delay traffic, with hours-long stops on the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing. A new management team is set to be in place Wednesday.



Shaylon Cochran/KDLL


As the return of fish to the Kenai Peninsula nears its historic halfway point, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is putting a spotlight on salmon for Fish Week.



AK Fire Info

The Swan Lake Fire, now over 95,000 acres, continues burning northeast of Sterling, with the fire danger prompting the Chugach National Forest to issue a temporary fire prohibition order for the Kenai Peninsula area of the forest.

The east flank of the Swan Lake Fire continues to move upslope and into higher elevations along the mountain ridge line. Fire managers say the change in vegetation is expected to reduce the ability for fire to move above ground resulting in slower fire spread and lower intensity burning.

Chris Moore/Alaska Division of Forestry


Firefighters were able to complete some key objectives on the Swan Lake fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula Thursday. 

Mike Hill/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge


When the Incident Command team running operations on the Swan Lake fire met with community members last week, it was the number two priority fire in the state. Since then, total personnel working just outside Sterling has almost doubled.

Alaska Division of Forestry


Firefighting efforts were focused on keeping the Swan Lake Fire away from a major Homer Electric Association transmission line Tuesday.

Casey Lasota/Alaska Division of Forestry


Now clocking in at more than 32,000 acres, the Swan Lake fire continues to burn about five miles east of Sterling in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Almost 400 personnel are currently assigned to the fire, the fourth major event on this part of the Peninsula in the past six years. That frequency has given Refuge managers almost real time feedback on what their policies and practices mean on the landscape.


Alaska Division of Forestry

As the Swan Lake Fire east of Sterling continues to grow, the Alaska Division of Forestry is stepping up management efforts. Not to the level of fighting the fire yet, but getting ready in case suppression efforts become necessary.

“Most of that new growth was on the northeast and northwest, away from the Sterling Highway,” said Sarah Saarloos, public information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry. “And it’s still sitting at about 5.5, 6 miles as the crow flies away from the Sterling community. There is at this time no threat to the sterling community.”

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is now accepting applications for hunters wanting a prime black bear baiting site.

Applications started coming in on March 1, and the filing period will last through April 12. The next day there will be a random drawing for the spots at the Refuge HQ, and hunters must be present to win.

Any remaining bait sites and permits will go to hunters not present at the drawing on a first-come-first-served basis.


The recent substantial snowfall may have created issues for drivers on area roads, but for those off the roads, it has been the green flag for the snowmachine season.

  The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced it was open for snowmachine use just after midnight this (Friday) morning. All areas of the refuge traditionally open to snowmachining are included in the opening announcement, with the caution that many lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds are not yet frozen or not sufficiently frozen to support a snowmachine. 

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

With a little bit of snow in this week’s forecast, we might be able to start saying that “it’s starting to look — at least a little — like Christmas” around the Central Peninsula.

Another sure sign of the season is the opportunity to skip Black Friday and cut a Christmas Tree out on the refuge.

  The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has announced that Christmas Tree cutting will be allowed on much of the refuge grounds starting on Thursday and lasting through Dec. 25.

The interior of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is opening up to vehicles tonight via the Mystery Creek Access Road. The refuge and a portion of the Alaska Pipeline Company's right-of way corridor will open at midnight.

The access road is at about mile 63 of the Sterling Highway, and is within the current highway construction area so the refuge cautions that the appearance of the turn-off has changed from previous years.

Several Central Peninsula campgrounds partially closed because of a bear encounter are open again.

Two weeks ago the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge temporarily closed three campgrounds to tent camping for public safety because of a bear encounter in one of them. An unidentified camper was scratched and their tent was damaged after a black bear came calling at the Lower Ohmer Campground on July 21.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge managers have closed three campgrounds on the Kenai Peninsula to tent camping after an early morning bear encounter on Saturday.

Refuge managers received reports of a black bear damaging a camper’s tent in the Refuge’s Lower Ohmer Campground and scratching the single occupant.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

July on the Kenai Peninsula means one thing to most people — fishing. Even if you don’t put a line in the water, it’s likely your friends, neighbors, co-workers or certainly the people in line ahead of you at the store do.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center has you covered this week.

“Fish week at the refuge is all about everything fish, so, not just fishing, but we started out on Tuesday talking about the anatomy of fish and what fish need to survive — so, habitat and what makes a healthy stream. Things like that,” said Leah Eskelin, park ranger with the visitors services department at the refuge.

On the Kenai Peninsula, salmon are king. Whether they’re king salmon or one of the other species of salmonid that populate our fresh waters. And that’s why when there’s a biologic danger to their existence, people go into high gear to try and protect them.

Take invasive species for example. About 20 years ago, northern pike were illegally introduced into Kenai Peninsula lakes by persons unknown. And they thrived, just like they do elsewhere in Alaska where they naturally occur. But here on the Kenai, the pike’s success came at a cost - the lives of baby salmon.

Shaylon Cochran/KDLL


When was the last time you actually discharged a can of bear spray? According to the experts, if you’re doing it right in bear country, you’ve never had to.



On this week's Kenai Conversation we find out how interconnected the natural world is on the Kenai Peninsula when we welcome retired Kenai National Wildlife Refuge ecologist Ed Berg and the refuge’s John Morton, the supervisory wildlife biolgogist to talk about how a warming climate has shrunk lakes and ponds, caused an increase in wildfires and an explostion in the moose population.

People can question climate change all they want, but according to a couple Kenai Peninsula scientists, one change in the climate in 1968-69 might be exactly why there is an abundance of moose in our back yard today.

Exactly how interconnected the natural world is on the Kenai Peninsula became obvious when KDLL welcomed retired Kenai National Wildlife Refuge ecologist Ed Berg and the refuge’s John Morton, the supervisory biologist to the studio.

This week on the Kenai Conversation, guests John Morton, the supervisory fish and wildlife biologist at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and Hans Rinke, the Kenai-Kodiak Area forester with the Alaska Division of Forestry discuss our forests, the trees in them, their future and the potential threats they face. 

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge


Despite all the snow still on the ground and in the forecast, it won’t be long before attention turns to fire season.



For years Alaska has been fertile ground for reality TV shows - not the kind where you get voted off the island or some bachelor gives you a rose - the kind where camera crews follow around real Alaskans, doing real things. Think "Life Below Zero" more than "Alaska Bush People."

Now, a production company wants to add the men and women of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to the mix.

Outdoor enthusiasts with more gasoline than ski wax running in their veins finally got the word they were waiting for: effective immediately, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is open to snowmachine use. Refuge Manager Andy Loranger announced the opening today (Tuesday), saying it applies to all areas of traditional snowmachine use.