Kenai Peninsula Boat Launch Facilities
Several launch facilities exist on the Kenai Peninsula that are of interest to recreational boaters. Here is a listing of the various options.
Finding a boat ramp in the Anchorage / Kenai Peninsula area is relatively simple, with many places to back your trailer in and head out for a great adventure.
The saltwater boat launch in Anchorage is located just south of Ship Creek. The ramp is located between two rock jetties that extend out into Cook Inlet's Knik Arm. The tidal fluctuation in this area can be 30 feet or more between high and low tides, giving Cook Inlet the second-highest tidal fluctuation in the world, behind Norway's Bay of Fundy.
The Ship Creek boat ramp consists of two parallel ramps, separated by a narrow dock that is used to tie off boats before or after launching. There are no slips where boats can be docked on a long-term basis, however a nearby lot offers dry, uncovered storage for boats.
The Ship Creek ramp is the only saltwater recreational boat launch in the Anchorage area.
The Whittier harbor is accessed via a single-lane tunnel that also serves the Alaska Railroad. The tunnel is open to one-way vehicle traffice on a rigid schedule that's coordinated with the railroad. The tunnel schedule is controlled by the Alaska Department of Transportation, and can be found AT THIS LINK. Note that the schedule changes between summer and winter.
The harbor is situated at the end of Prince William Sound's Passage Canal; a notorious wind tunnel between the Sound and Cook Inlet, to the west. The Whittier harbor offers fee-based launch facilities, overnight lodging, fuel, bait and tackle, trailer parking and boat storage facilities.
The Seward harbor offers fee-based launch facilities, full service including fuel, trailer parking, hot showers, and transient slips during the busy summer season. Numerous nearby stores offer bait and tackle, and other items mariners might need. This harbor serves Resurrection Bay and out into the waters of Prince William Sound to Montague Island.
Kenai River, Including Kenai Lake and Skilak Lake
The Kenai River is by far the most popular river in Region 2. Launch facilities exist in several locations, as follows:
Ptarmigan Creek: A boat ramp and campground is located at Ptarmigan Creek on upper Kenai Lake.
Quartz Creek: A boat ramp and campground is located at the confluence of Quartz Creek and Kenai Lake.
Kenai Lake Boat Ramp: Located at the outlet of Kenai Lake, this ramp is one of two access points for floaters interested in floating the upper Kenai River. The section between this ramp and Skilak Lake is restricted to drift-only (no motorized boats). The upper two miles of the river below this ramp are slack water and many floaters row through this section. Pay the launch fee at the self-serve kiosk and either park there, or shuttle a vehicle downriver to another ramp. Fee-based shuttle services are available.
Sportsman's Landing: Located at the ferry crossing to the Russian River, Sportsman's is a great ramp for floaters wanting to miss the slackwater section below Kenai Lake. This is a fee-based ramp with a pay station located on the road going in to the parking lot.
Jim's Landing: This is the last ramp on the upper Kenai, and is the destination of floaters putting in at Kenai Lake or Sportsman's. Parking is limited but the stalls are deep enough to accommodate vehicles pulling trailers. Overflow parking is available back out at the north side of the Sterling Highway, just downriver from the turnoff to Skilak Lake. It's a short walk from Jim's Landing to the overflow area.
Upper Skilak Boat Ramp: Located at the upper end of the Skilak Loop Road, the Upper Skilak Boat Ramp offers fee-based launch facilities, parking, and campsites. This is a common take-out for floaters who want to run the canyon on the upper Kenai, which lies below Jim's Landing. If you opt for this run, an outboard is recommended for the 15-mile run from the confluence of the upper Kenai and Skilak Lake to the Upper Skilak Boat Launch. Skilak Lake is potentially dangerous as the Harding Ice Field at the upper end of the lake can generate winds that whip across the lake, creating steep waves and dangerous whitecaps in a matter of minutes. In the summer it is generally calm during the morning hours, so plan your run around this time frame.
Lower Skilak Boat Ramp: Located at the lower end of the Skilak Loop Road on Skilak Lake, this ramp is a popular launch point for boaters planning to float or motor the middle section of the Kenai River down to Bing's Landing. Campsites are available.
Bing's Landing: A popular take-out point for boaters running down from Bing's landing or for powerboaters who are fishing the middle Kenai River. Launch fees are paid at the self-serve kiosk. Some campsites are available. Note that this ramp is just upstream from Naptowne Rapids, with its hydraulics and whitewater. Note the location carefully or you could end up running the rapids whether you want to or not!
Izaac Walton: Also known as "Moose River", this ramp is located at the confluence of the Moose and Kenai Rivers. Owned by the State of Alaska, it has both a ramp and a campground, and is an ideal base for boaters interested in the middle Kenai River below Naptowne Rapids. It is also popular with saltwater boaters returning to Anchorage from Deep Creek or Anchor point; they back their boats down the ramp into the river for a freshwater rinse.
Swiftwater: This fee-based campground and launch are owned and operated by the city of Soldotna.
Centennial Park: Located just below the bridge in Soldotna, Centennial offers campsites and launch facilities for boaters interested in the lower Kenai River. The campground is owned by the city of Soldotna, and fees are paid at a drive-up booth on the drive in. Also includes a day-use area for picnickers.
Eagle Rock: Otherwise known as "Cunningham", this isthe last boat launch on the Kenai River before you get to the city of Kenai itself. This ramp is popular with anglers fishing the lower Kenai River. The ramp is owned by the city of Kenai, and no camping is available here.
Kenai Docks: A boat ramp is located on the lower Kenai River, which is accessed from the Kenai Spur Highway in the city of Kenai. At low tide the ramp is really steep, so four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for launch at lower water levels.
Lower Kenai Peninsula
Anchor River: The Anchor River is a popular fishing destination and it offers a beach-based tractor launch operation for anglers interested in fishing Cook Inlet for salmon or halibut. Check in at the main office and you will be given a board with a number, which you take with you in your boat. A matching number goes on your trailer. Disconnect your trailer, get in the boat, and the tractor service will hook up to it and launch your boat for you. After they launch, they will park your trailer where it can be retrieved for the pick-up. On your way back in, simply radio the tractor office or show your number from your boat. The tractor operator will hook up to your trailer and position it in the water so you can motor the boat up on it. Once your winch cable is secured to the boat (a second member of the launch crew does this for you), the tractor backs out to a staging area where the trailer is disconnected so you can connect it back to your vehicle.
Some boaters opt to rinse the boat and trailer at the car wash in Soldotna, or if you're in a hurry you might back it down into the river at the boat ramp at Moose River for a quick rinse to prevent corrosion to your trailer.
Deep Creek: The Deep Creek State Recreation Area offers beach-based boat launch facilities, as well as a traditional boat launch. The ramp, located along the lower end of Deep Creek, is sheltered from the rough waters of Cook Inlet but launching and take-out are not possible at low tide.
Beach-based launching is done by tractors that attach to your boat trailer and perform both launch and retrieval through the surf into Cook Inlet. This area is exposed to swells and wind chop, and because of the exposed location it is not always possible to launch. In some cases you will have to anchor your boat offshore and wait for the weather to calm down before your boat can be retrieved. Some boaters opt to launch boats themselves, but the risk of swamping, combined with the risk of a vehicle becoming mired in sand and mud make this a risky prospect on windy days when whitecaps are present.
Homer: The boat basin at the end of the Homer Spit offers fee-based launch facilities, trailer parking and a full-service harbor including fuel. A Coast Guard station at the harbor offers emergency assistance to boaters in Kachemak Bay and beyond into the waters of Lower Cook Inlet.
If you plan to fish anywhere on the Kenai Peninsula, you need a copy of Dave Atcheson's "Fishing the Kenai Peninsula" in your rig. If you're new to the area, a copy of The Milepost will help you plan your trip, providing maps and detailed information on the locations of campgrounds, cabins, places to eat, fuel stops and much more. While you're in the bookstore, you might also check out our maps of Kachemak Bay State Park, Kenai River (includes only the middle and lower sections of the river, from Skilak Lake to the mouth), and the Northwestern Kenai Peninsula map, which includes only the areas around Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, Kasilof, and Nikiski. These are road maps, but they also show campgrounds, fishing areas and available species. Finally, check out Scott Haugen's excellent book, "Bank Fishing for Steelhead and Salmon" for excellent tips that will work on the Kenai River, Deep Creek and other places on the Kenai Peninsula.