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Kenai Wildlife Refuge Canoe Routes On the Swanson River and Swan Lake Canoe Systems

The Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe routes are located in the northern lowlands of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established to conserve the fish and wildlife and habitats of the Kenai Peninsula in their natural diversity as well as provide opportunities for fish and wildlife oriented recreation. The canoe routes are located in an area that is nationally designated wilderness area. The routes are also National Recreational Trails.

   Swan Lake
Canoe System



Swanson River

Canoe System


A trip on these waterways is a special adventure because of the varied wildlife. Trumpeter swan, moose, black and brown bear, wolves, bald eagles, loons, beaver, otter, mink, muskrat, and waterfowl are often observed. Beaver inhabit the lakes and streams building dams and storing food. Song birds, shore birds, and waterfowl nest along lake shores, marshlands, and forests. Moose give birth to their calves during late May and early June. It is not unusual to see common loons and their young.

This is an excellent outing for family groups. The trails consist mainly of sheltered lake travel with short portages between lakes on well marked trails. Occasionally a stream will link some lakes but paddling may be difficult. It is wise to have one member of the group wear hip boots while the others should wear knee high rubber boots. Take-outs at portage points may be swampy and keeping your feet dry will make the outing more enjoyable.


Our canoes are mainly 2 person light-weight Kevlar boats, however we do have a couple of longer family sized boats as well (these will be a bit heavier for the portages). Our guides will be in single canoes that they can portage quickly to allow time to help others.

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