This charming town on the Kenai Peninsula has a population of just over 7,000 and is known for fantastic hospitality—and fishing. Named for the Dena’ina word for “flat,” it’s a nod to the open meadow area with few trees and low ridges. Nestled along the mouth of the Kenai River, archaeologists think the area was first populated by the Kachemaks circa 1,000 B.C. followed by the indigenous Dena’ina Athabaskans circa 1,000 A.D.

The Russians arrived in 1741 when 1,000 Dena’inas still called the area home. Russians called the locals “Kenaitze,” or “people of the flats.” This in turn became the source for Kenai, including both the area and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe during the 1970s.

A Blended History

Pytor Zaikov constructed Fort Nikolaevskaja in 1786, which is now considered the first official European settlement on the state’s mainland. However, by 1800 there was conflict between the locals and the Europeans, with an incident in which the Dena’inas attacked the fort during the Battle of Kenai.

In addition to 100+ deaths during the attack, smallpox was also introduced and killed half of the Dena’inas around 1838. By 1869, the Alaska Purchase led to the U.S. Army creating Fort Kenai, followed by prospector Alexander King striking it rich in 1888. However, his find was small compared to others in Fairbanks, Nome and Klondike. Today, Kenai remains a quaint community with a one of a kind history and the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway.