Community Profile: Cooper Landing

07/02/2010
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The derivation of many Alaska towns belongs to gold. And with the fantasy of fortune in the 1800s, came waves of adventurers, dreamers and lots of schemers to the last frontier, leaving behind a legacy of captivating tales. But before the time of Soapy Smith and Joe Juneau, it all began in a picturesque setting along the banks of the Kenai River. Here in 1848, the first Alaska gold discovery occurred, and the area soon became a rustic outpost for miners, hunters and traders eager to carve out a slice of success and a new destiny. Named for one such prospector, Joseph Cooper, the small town of Cooper Landing was born.

Today, Cooper Landing is home to a different kind of fever: fishing. Containing the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers, Cooper Landing is the epicenter for anglers looking for sockeye and coho salmon, Dolly Varden and rainbow trout. Even if you have no interest in baiting a hook, it’s a good place to visit and easy to get to along the Sterling Highway. Located at the north end of the Kenai River, several rafting companies have taken up shop and offer trips ranging from gentle floats to thrilling Class III whitewater in the Kenai Canyon. It also lies near trailheads, perfect for nature hikes and horseback riding. If you’re into sightseeing, the heart of Cooper Landing is a five-building national historic district consisting of an old post office, a schoolhouse from the 1950s and a homesteader’s cabin that today houses the Cooper Landing Historical Society Museum. Travelers can visit the kennel of dog musher Lorraine Temple and hear tales of the trail and see a dog harnessing demonstration. The gold rush might be over, but if you visit Cooper Landing in the summer, it’s easy to see why people still flock here more than 150 years later; we’ve just traded in our rock hammers for rafting ores and our gold pans for fishing poles.

All of these experiences can be booked at the Tour Desk at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge.

“Community Profile” is a blog series that provides a closer look at the towns, history and events near Princess lodges in Alaska.