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The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located on Ski Hill Road, just off Funny River Road. The center has dioramas of area wildlife, films and rangers on hand to answer questions on canoeing, hiking and camping in the refuge. There are also three short trails that begin at the visitor center and wind into the nearby woods or to a viewing platform on Headquarters Lake.
The Soldotna Visitor Information Center is located in the center of town on the Sterling Highway just past the Kenai River Bridge. The impressive center is built in a wooded setting along the banks of the river and outside there is a series of steps and landings that lead down to the water. The center has tons of information on what to see, where to stay, fishing charters and guides and local experts on hand to answer questions.
Location: Soldotna is on the Kenai Peninsula, 150 highway miles south of Anchorage, at the junction of the Sterling and Kenai Spur Highways. It lays 10 miles inland from Cook Inlet and borders the Kenai River.
Access: By road via the Sterling Highway, 150 highway miles south of Anchorage, charter air.
Accommodations: 18 hotels/motels, 33 lodges/cabins/bed and breakfasts. 25 restaurants
Soldotna is a service center at the junction of the Sterling Highway and Kenai Spur Highway on the Kenai Peninsula. The town was born when both roads were completed in the 1940s and World War II veterans were given a 90-day preference to homestead the area. What used to be little more than a hub for anglers hoping to catch an 80-pound king salmon from the Kenai River is now one of the fastest growing areas on the peninsula.
The world-famous Kenai River cuts right through the center of town and easy access to nearby Kasilof River make Soldotna a very busy place during fishing season. The angler will find everything he needs here including plenty of river guides and fishing charters. Fly-in charters are also available to remote fishing locations and wilderness fishing and adventure lodges within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Soldotna has constructed several public fishwalks to make the popular Kenai River more accessible to the public. Located at the city's two campgrounds, the fishwalks allow the city to put people on the riverbank without degrading the environment.
Soldotna's Homestead Museum features a wildlife display and some of the area's early homestead cabins. Slikok Valley School, the last of the territorial log schools was built in 1958 and is maintained in its original state. Damon Hall features an outstanding display of wildlife mounts and an interesting display of Alaska Native artifacts. The pathways between the historic buildings burst with wildflowers in all colors, making this a favorite place for photographs.
Alaska is home to the Rangifer tarandus grantisubspecies of caribou. While other parts of the world use the terms "caribou" and "reindeer" synonymously, in Alaska "reindeer" refers exclusively as Santa's 8 flying reindeer, or domesticated caribous. Caribou in Alaska generally are found in tundra and mountain regions, where there are few trees. However, many herds spend the winter months in the boreal forest areas.
Caribou are large-scale migratory animals and have been known to travel up to 50 miles (80 km) a day. The migratory activities of caribou are usually driven by weather conditions and food availability. Changes in caribou migration can be problematic for Alaska Natives, who depend on Caribou for food.
Caribou in Alaska are abundant; currently there are an estimated 950,000 in the state. The populations of caribou are controlled by predators and hunters (who shoot about 22,000 caribou a year). Though in the 1970s there were worries that oil drilling and development in Alaska would harm caribou populations, they seem to have adapted to the presence of humans, and so far there have been few adverse effects.