A man and a woman paddling a red boat on calm waters carrying fishing gear

The Swan Lake and Swanson River canoe systems cover over 100 miles in the northern lowlands of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. From easy family weekend trips to weeklong adventures, paddlers of all abilities and ages will enjoy this unique wilderness experience.

What To Expect

Lakes break up in mid-May and stay open until mid-October. Lake waters are cold (50-60 degrees F).

  • Portages range from several hundred yards to a mile or more. Travel light and use a good canoe yoke. Realize you hike as much as you paddle on the canoe routes. Carry an extra paddle to ensure safety.
  • Biting insects are often present on portages and at campsites. Bring repellent and head nets.
  • Narrow rivers, like Swanson and Moose, require paddlers to maneuver tight oxbows and to avoid rocks and brush. These rivers require intermediate level skills.
  • Campsites are not designated. To reduce impact, choose sites that have been previously developed.

Canoe System Regulations

  • Canoeists must register at the entrance where they embarkGr.
  • Group size is limited to 15 people. Smaller groups of 2 to 8 are recommended to reduce impact.
  • State boating and life jacket regulations apply.
  • No motorized watercraft.
  • Wheeled vehicles such as canoe carts and mountain bikes are not allowed in wilderness areas.
  • Power equipment, such as electric boat motors, generators and chain saws, is not allowed.
  • Fishing and hunting in season are permitted.
  • Fireworks are prohibited