The beauty and expansiveness of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge seen from an unmanned aircraft in the upper Kenai River and Skilak Lake. (Photo by Mark Laker, USFWS)

Wildlife Refuge to open its doors for summer

The refuge has been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be fully open to the public soon, Park Ranger Leah Eskelin said on Tuesday.

The refuge, which has been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year, is currently having a “soft opening,” in which visitor center hosts will be available at an outdoor information station. On June 5, the refuge will also open its doors to the lobby and exhibit hall for National Trails Day.

“We sure are excited and ready for it,” Eskelin said.

The crew has been working on the reopening procedure, keeping in mind the number of vaccinated people in the area, as well as available staff members. Eskelin said the lobby and exhibit hall will be open at a 25% maximum capacity to allow for social distancing.

On opening day, the refuge will host guided hikes, which Eskelin said range from dog-friendly hikes to StoryWalks for elementary kids to more strenuous adult treks near Skilak Lake.

Eskelin said the staff are expecting a lot of traffic through the refuge this summer.

“We’re anticipating a nice, healthy number of visitors … maybe more than normal,” she said.

For more information about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge opening and the plans for National Trails Day, call 907-20-2820 or visit

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

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