The Russian River flows into the Upper Kenai River approximately 7 miles below Kenai Lake. The confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers is one of the most popular drive-to salmon fishing destinations in the world. It is an easy walk-and-wade fishery. In mid to late June, during the peak of the early Sockeye Salmon (Red Salmon) run, one is likely to encounter anglers from throughout south central Alaska, the other forty-nine states, Europe and points farther east. Most of the angling pressure is focused within the lower mile of the Russian and the first mile of the Kenai River after the confluence.
Much of the Russian River system is actually closed to salmon fishing, offering a more remote experience with a chance for solitude. A trail parallels portions of the river and provides access to Lower Russian and Upper Russian Lakes as well as the beautiful stretch of river between them. Conventional nymphing and dry fly fishing can be excellent for rainbows before the sockeye spawn begins. A float tube can work wonders on the Lakes. Bears are always present and awareness and proper precautions should be taken.
Access to the Lower Russian River, Kenai Confluence Zone has two main points. The Russian River Campground entrance is from mile 52.8 of the Sterling Hwy. The campground is extremely popular for both access and overnight stays. The Kenai / Russian River Access boat landing and ferry crossing point is adjacent to mile 55 of the Sterling Highway. The Russian River Ferry is a metal riverboat with a sweeper oar that ferries back and forth on a cable. It provides anglers with a quick trip across the Kenai River from the Sterling Highway to the Russian River Confluence.
A third access point for serious hikers or bikers is via the 21-mile long Russian Lakes Trail. From mile 48 of the Sterling Hwy, take Snug Harbor Road along Kenai Lake. Continuing on, the road eventually becomes Cooper Lake Road. The upper trailhead is about 12 miles from the Sterling Highway and the Cooper Lake Road is not well maintained.
The Forest Service manages three cabins for rent. The Lower Russian Lake “Barber” Cabin is accessible by trail, 3 ½ miles south of Russian River Campground parking area. The “Aspen Flats Cabin” is between the Lower and Upper Russian Lakes on the Russian River and accessed by trail 9 miles from Russian River Campground trailhead or 12 miles from Cooper Lake trailhead. The Upper Russian Lake Cabin is accessible by trail 12 miles from the Russian River Campground trailhead and 9 miles from the Cooper Lake trailhead. Floatplanes can also access both lakes for anglers who don’t wish to hike.
For those wishing to stay at the Russian River Campground, reservations are essential during much of the season. Visit http://www.recreation.gov/ for reservations and more info. Other Chugach National Forest campground choices in the Cooper Landing area include Quartz Creek, Crescent Creek and Cooper Creek Campgrounds.
Other Waters of Interest: