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Swanson River Canoe Route

The Swanson River Canoe Route lies north of the Swan Lake Canoe Route within the Kenai Canoe Trails and connects 40 lakes with 46 miles of the Swanson River. In total, the Swanson River Canoe Route forms a trail system of just over 80 miles in length.

photo: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Length: 46.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Water Trail
Agency: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Boating, non-motorized: Canoeing
Boating, non-motorized: Kayaking
Wildlife Observation

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Location: In Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, N side of Kenai Peninsula, E of Kenai. (recertified 1993)
State(s): Alaska
Counties: Kenai Peninsula Borough
Longitude: -150.51996
Latitude: 60.79919

Driving Directions

From the Sterling Highway (Route 1) 10 miles east of Soldotna, or about 1.5 miles west of the town of Sterling at milepost 83.4, turn north onto Swanson River Road. Turn right onto the Swan Lake Road at mile 16.4. From there it is approximately 3.5 miles to the West Entrance of the Swan Lake Canoe Route. It is an additional 6 miles to the East Entrance of the Swan Lake Canoe Route, and another 2.5 miles further on the Swan Lake Road to the entrance to the Swanson River Canoe Route. Parking areas are provided, and all canoeists are required to register at each entrance.


"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." With these words, the Congress of the United States defined the general characteristics of a wilderness area. The Kenai Canoe Trails is one of only three wilderness canoe systems established in the United States (the other being Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota, and Okefenokee in Georgia). These trails are located within the northwestern section of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, an area of 1.3 million acres, established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 for its outstanding wildlife and recreational values. The Kenai Canoe Trails are divided into two systems, the Swan Lake and Swanson River Canoe Routes. Both trails are National Recreation Trails. The Swan Lake System is perhaps the most visited of the two systems and contains 30 lakes linked with the main branch and the West Fork of the Moose River in an interconnecting system of waterways and portages. This forms a canoe route of about 60 miles, though many shorter excursions are possible and even likely. The Swanson River Canoe Route lies north of the Swan Lake System and connects 40 lakes with 46 miles of the Swanson River. In total, the Swanson River Canoe Route forms a trail system of just over 80 miles in length. Besides the lakes directly connected by portages and waterways, this area contains thousands of other lakes which are seldom explored or even seen. The contour of this wilderness is not particularly rugged, but is generally a flat to gently undulating topography of ancient glacial deposits. Surrounding the lakes that are scattered throughout the area are rounded hills and ridges rising up to a maximum of 295 feet in elevation. But the lakes are the most noticeable feature. They drain either directly or indirectly into two systems, the Moose and Swanson Rivers. These are both shallow streams, following meandering paths through poorly-drained swamps and muskeg flats. Both the Moose and the Swanson River also offer interesting floating possibilities. (From The Kenai Canoe Trails, by Daniel L. Quick, 1995)

Additional Details

Primary Surface: Water, still
Secondary Surface: None
Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: 295
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Website: Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Website

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Trail Management:
Scott Slavik
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 2139
Soldotna, AK 99669 -2139
(907) 262-7021
[email protected]



Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.


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