Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area

glassy lake reflecting puffy white clouds in the sky, tall mountains on either side
Tern Lake

Photo courtesy Karen Lewis

Quick Facts
South Central Alaska; Kenai Peninsula Borough
Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area bridges Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound via mountains, glacial valleys, and plentiful productive rivers. Throughout this landscape are communities and stories, both of which connect us to our past and future. Fish camps, mining claims, and railroad roadhouses helped shape the home, work, and play spaces of today.
National Heritage Area

Scenic View/Photo Spot

The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area encompasses a magnificent landscape of mountains, lakes, rivers, and fjords, traveled ways and small communities with nationally significant historic and cultural value.The area is located in the mountainous region of the Kenai Peninsula that runs north/south from the communities of Bird/Indian and Girdwood, through Moose Pass, to the City of Seward including Cooper Landing, Sunrise, and Hope to the west, and Portage, Whittier and the waters of Prince William Sound to the east. 

As the coordinating entity for the KMTA National Heritage Area, the Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm Corridor Communities Association (KMTA CCA) is tasked with developing and implementing a management plan with the input of people and organizations that have a role in the Heritage Area, including residents, communities, non-governmental organizations, Alaska Native entities, as well as national and state entities that manage trails and transportation facilities, lands, and resources.

Alaska’s early people traveled in the Kenai Corridor along the coastline of Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay, along waterways such as Kenai Lake, and rivers such as the Russian and Kenai. As well as providing transportation routes, these places had abundant resources to sustain the lives of early people and allowed for the development of complex clan cultures. (Trails Across Time, pg. 28)

Early merchants and mariners dreamed of discovering an all-water passage that would link Europe with East Asia. In the quest for this Northwest Passage, Alaska’s early explorers “discovered” Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, Cape Elizabeth, and a host of other places related to the KMTA corridor. (Trails Across Time, pg. 31)

The KMTA corridor embraced the hopes and dreams of thousands as the Turnagain Arm Gold Rush lured prospectors north to seek their fortunes. First discovered during the Russian occupation of the area, the Turnagain Arm Gold Rush is one of the lesser-known gold rushes, but it had a long-lasting impact on the settlement of Southcentral Alaska.After the United States purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, American prospectors learned about early Russian reports of gold on the Kenai. For nearly 20 years prospectors and adventurers explored the Kenai River drainages and the beaches of Cook Inlet. (Trails Across Time, pg. 51)

Notable Places of Interest

Notable People 

Last updated: February 9, 2021