In the area of Cooper Landing are three campgrounds managed by Alaska Recreational Management. Russian River is about 3 miles south and butts the Russian River where the infamous ‘combat fishing’ takes place at the confluence between the Kenai River and the Russian. This is where the first-run of Red, Coho and Sockey Salmon begins on and around June 11. For those ‘in the know,’ this time of fishing is anything but ‘relaxing’ and the fish are plentiful. Generally there’s a three-fish limit per 24-hour period, but last year that was raised to six. The second run of fish comes in mid-July and goes further up the Kenai. There is always catch and release trout fishing and Dolly Varden (a type of trout). The season actually begins further down river with King Salmon. There is also the world-famous Halibut fishing 3 hours south of Cooper Landing at Homer.
The second campground is at the north end of Cooper Landing known as Quartz Creek. This campground sits on the Kenai Lake and about 10 of the 45 sites open late April, early May depending on snow. This is where we initially ‘land’ when we arrive at Cooper Landing. ARM allows us to use electric and water from the host site which is extremely nice especially in colder weather when we are able to run our fireplace and keep the trailer a toasty 68 degrees. Quartz Creek is where we wanted to host because of the amenities, but we have learned it has a multitude of duties that we don’t have where we host. They have a public boat launch onto the lake along with public rest rooms, they have a pavilion to maintain, they collect trash from the bins to put into the dumpster, they have 45 sites (15 more than we do) and they are responsible for maintaining the dump station. Boondocking looks good from that vantage point. For those who believe campground hosting is ‘glamorous,’ I’ve come to tell you there are parts that are not!
We stayed at Quartz Creek until we got permission to enter ours, Cooper Creek. This campground is more primitive than Quartz and is located south of Cooper Landing. ‘Our’ campground as 29 sites, one is ours, on two sides of the Sterling Highway. This highway is the major route to Soldotna (about 1 hour away) where we will be doing our shopping and to Homer (about 3 hours away). We were quite happy to see that all the work we had done last fall when closing the campground down remained ‘perfect’ on the south or mountain side where we stay. The north or river side also opens early if there is no snow and we definitely have some clean up to do. It seems some trees were cut down by the forest service and they didn’t remove the debris; it also appears some beavers had fun this winter removing numerous trees, leaving not only the telltale signs of the stumps, but also the trees! Don’t beavers use the trees for their lodges? Or, do they just cut them down to sharpen their teeth?
On the mountain side, our ‘home’ side runs Cooper Creek. Trout and Dolly Varden may be fished there, but because of some manmade issues, the fish left the creek. The short story is many years ago the salmon returned to Cooper Creek to spawn. A dam was built up top by Cooper Lake to divert water for a power plant. This changed the temperature of the creek by four degrees, only four, but it was enough that the salmon couldn’t find their way. A diversion pipe was put on Cooper Lake to siphon the top warmer water off back into the creek in order to raise the temperature. Fish and Game now study the effects and are seeing that there is some restoration happening.
On the river side is the Kenai River and its aquamarine luster. We have 7 non-reservable sites on the river that all have access to the river and fishing. This is where we see most of the wildlife from eagles to moose and we’ve heard about bear sightings; thus far we haven’t been blessed with that wildlife! Alaska River Adventures, our son-in-law’s fishing company offers not only guided fly-fishing trips down this river, but also morning, afternoon, and evening scenic float trips when wildlife can be seen along the banks.
As I mentioned, our campground, Cooper Creek, is primitive. We have no electricity or running water though there is a well pump. We have two pit toilets, one on the river side an the other on our mountain side. We ‘boondock’ all summer or ‘dry camp’. This means we haul our water from a spring or other source, use both a gas and solar generator to recharge our batteries, and haul our waste in a wagon-like hauler to the manhole of the pit toilet. Fun? Not really, but it makes the job possible and all of the processes become routine until it becomes fun! We know how to conserve water both in washing dishes and showering, we use the pit toilets so the black-water job isn’t often (about every 2 weeks) and we have puck battery lights everywhere in the trailer so we don’t live in the dark even with nearly 20 hours of light. We have a propane stove, hot water heater and furnace though we use our Mr. Heater more often than not. We spent Mother’s Day morning dumping our black water at Quartz, moving on down the road a bit, and setting up our little ‘home’ for the next four months. Tomorrow we begin our second year of campground hosting on the Kenai Peninsula.
The gate is still closed and we are not open to the public so I’m saying that we live in a gated community where we’re the only ones living, for now anyway. By Memorial Day weekend we will have reservations that don’t stop until Labor Day. From June 11 to mid-August, we are booked and busy 24/7. We will meet people from all over the world as well as nearby communities; people who love to ‘get away’ from Anchorage and fish. We will eat pizza at Sacketts right next to the campground, enjoy scoops of ice cream at Wildmans, hike some difficult and easy trails, pick blueberries, bake Alaska sourdough bread, watch the salmon swim upstream, remind people of bears and best of all, spend the next four months with our every-growing grandson – the real reason to campground host in Alaska!
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