Day 8 – Cooper Landing, Alaska

Fishing the Kenai River in Cooper Landing

If you are a fisherman, then Cooper Landing is your heaven on earth. If you aren’t, then I hope you are a nature lover as this is a true gem in the middle of the Kenai Peninsula.

The last time I came through here was with one of my sisters and friends and we had rented an RV out of Anchorage a few years ago. I had heard about the Russian River and had snagged a rare spot in the Russian River Campground. It became one of our favorite stops along the way. This is a dry camping area, meaning no available hookups (water, electricity or sewer). We had an on board generator for electricity and had filled our fresh water tanks with water.

I love to fish. I learned to fish from my dad as we spent many years fishing together growing up in his little aluminum boat. Dad was my fishing guide and cleaned up all the fish. Nice! However bass fishing from a boat is WAY different than salmon fishing in a river. I did not know a thing about salmon fishing or how much work to expect. Yep, totally clueless.

Essentially, you only use the boat to get to the fishing hole. Then you gingerly crawl out of the boat wearing waders. You stand for hours throwing the line, sweeping, trying to catch a trout swimming by, hand pulling the line and then doing so again. This salmon fishing technique is called “flossing”. The water is chilly and can numb your feet after a couple of hours. It is also hard on the old back, standing on rocks. This is a hard way to fish for a beginner or especially a granny.

I caught a large silver salmon after two hours, but it jumped off the line before the guide could get it in the net. A couple I was fishing with caught two fish each but lost a few others.

However, I was surprised to hear from my friends who had booked an earlier salmon fishing trip that they had an easier time fishing. They all stayed in the boat the entire time by trolling and used rod holders that were rigged up to catch the salmon. As this article mentions, back trolling for salmon from a drift boat is great for kids, older people or others who just want to relax. (My kind of fishing) There were six people fishing and they caught ten large salmon from a boat. They used the Alaska Trout Guides charter operator. Hmmmmmm, wish I had known. On my to do list for next time.

Kenai River boat made for ease of rowing and balance in the water.
Nothing comes close to this river view. So peaceful.
Notice how quickly this after is moving. Thousands of fish are swimming upstream.
My Kenai River fishing view for the day.
We fished from the bank on the right about six feet out into the water with our waders. See the fishermen on the right? We looked like that too.
No, I did not slip and fall on my keister, but came pretty close. 😉

Wildlife Viewing Along the Skilak Lake Road

So, the weather has been unusually warm for this area. While the mornings are around the 50’s, the afternoons are high 70’s and low 80’s. So this is great for human kind, it is not so great for the wildlife who like to hunker down in the shade in cooler temps. You would too if you wore a huge coat of fur.

We had several recommendations to take the drive along the Skilak Lake Road to see wildlife. I wish I had found this touring information site with free audio tours to make the trip more enjoyable. Sadly, we only saw magnificent bird and scenery, but no large wildlife.

This is a massive area of lakes threaded together with multiple campgrounds hidden from view.

Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area
Map of Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. The Kenai River flows in and out of Skilak Lake.

Oh my, this was a rough and dusty road, best travelled on with a pick up truck. But we did find beautiful dry camping areas. These are a first come, first served area but only $10 a night for RVs, if they can fit, and $5 a night for tents. I am not sure I am brave enough to stay in a tent in bear country.

Typical dry camping site. Paved with fire ring and picnic table. Very nice.
Hidden Valley Lake at sunset. Canoe road skimming across the water on the right.


  1. Dorothy Mellon says

    Did you catch any fish? If so . What did you do with the fish?i know you you had a campsite you would cook it for dinner.
    Gods country! So so beautiful!

    • Caught one but guide was not able to scoop up in net before it pulled off my line. So, really not “caught”. I am staying in a B&B, not a campsite this time. However, most seaside towns have restaurants that will cook your catch or if you have enough, you can process and ship home. One couple I met in Seward comes up to Alaska every year and typically catch 120lbs! My friends caught 77 lbs on a one day trip.