Fall Rafting With Kenai Riverdog


Kenai Riverdog Porter and a few happy rafting guests on the Kenai.

What does a dog have to do with river rafting? A lot, especially if you’re Porter James, self-proclaimed “Top Dog” of the so-named Kenai Riverdog Adventure Rafting and Photography company based in Cooper Landing.

Blue skies, golden leaves, and mountain tops. Good!

AK Dad is away, and I hated to waste last weekend’s sunny autumn weather, so I packed up AK Kid and Pal and drove two hours south to the small community of Cooper Landing, roadside to the Sterling Highway and riverside to the scenic Kenai River. Well-known for fantastic fishing and subsequent bear-watching, the Kenai River is where many Alaska visitors go in hopes of hooking a famous Alaska salmon. But the river also provides boundless recreation for non-fishers, too (yes, it’s true). Miles and miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, and cafes dot the map in and around Cooper Landing, and we always enjoy a stop in this historic Kenai Peninsula community.

Fishing enthusiasts on the Kenai River.

Eagle twins!

Rafting is not too adventurous here, and that’s one reason it works for families. The Kenai and adjoining Russian River converge for a few rapids here and there, providing enough squeals of glee from kids, but not so much whitewater that parents will turn white-faced with worry over the fate of their excited children.

Kenai Riverdog owner Kayce James has capitalized on the river’s good nature, establishing the rafting company just last year, and we’ve been anxious to test her mettle with the youngster(s) in our AKontheGO world. Verdict: She’s got an affordable, comfortable, affiable winner of a product in Kenai Riverdog, and I think you’ll like what you see.

Kenai Riverdog owner Kayce James and her pup, Porter.

WHERE: James and her wunderhund Porter offer several options for floating; from the stunning Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to a two-hour Cooper Landing to Russian River Ferry, it just takes a bit of pre-knowledge of kids and their patience for sitting in a raft, as fun as waves and splashing and eagles may be. For first-timers or younger kids, the two-hour, seven-mile trip is perfect. James provides hot cocoa, muffins or cinnamon rolls, and lots of interesting facts about the river and surrounding mountains. Hint: Watch for the eagles’ nests!

WHAT: The Kenai Riverdog raft is a stable, four-person watercraft, with additional seating up front (very exciting for kids). The average family will enjoy the seats and the subsequent view. You’ll see fishers casting lines from expensive drift boats and guiding services, folks standing hip-deep in the chilly water trying their luck, eagles, Kingfishers, and Merganzers checking out the scene, and maybe, just maybe, a brown bear anxiously awaiting his or her turn at fishing. This time of year, the riverbanks and mountainsides are a luscious gold, and the smell of rotting fish, leaves, and icy fall air is something like. No, I’m not kidding; this is Alaska, folks. Embrace the aroma.

HOW: Kenai Riverdog guides will provide transportation via van from the take-out point, a short 10-minute drive back to the Cooper Landing Day Use Area. If your child needs a booster seat, please make sure to hand it over prior to embarkating. HEADS UP: Bring $5 for day use parking!!!! Allow two hours from Anchorage, two hours for floating, and a few more hours to return (more if you stop for lunch on the way home).

BRING…: Waterproof clothing, hat, gloves, and boots. I was surprised, even on this bright, sunny Alaska day, how chilly my hands became after two hours on the water. Binoculars and a camera are good ideas for wildlife, scenery, and the occasional Dall Sheep high upon the mountainsides. Kenai Riverdog guides bring snacks, but you might want to add water or juice packs for your kids. Make sure a bathroom stop happens before you step into the raft! 

COST: Trips with Kenai Riverdog start at a family-friendly $55/pp for a two-hour float. At a time when budgets for Alaska are slim, this is a perfect day trip for an entire crew.  James can even customize a trip, with photography, birthday cake, music, and anything else guests can dream up, for a minor increase in cost. Worth it? Yes, indeed.

BONUS: Porter can join guests on the rafting trip, or not. It’s completely your call, James says, but we found his presence to be quite delightful. And hey, ask James for a dog bandana for your own hound – they’re pretty snazzy (just ask AK Dog).

Kenai Riverdog will be operating for another few weeks, and this might be a great time to take a fall family float on the Kenai River. Get outdoors, Alaska!

AK Dog sports his new bandana from Kenai Riverdog.

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