Community Description

As compared with most other communities throughout Alaska, the city of Soldotna is relatively young. In 1947, the town’s first homesteaders were World War II veterans who were given a 90-day preference over non-veterans in choosing and filing for land. In order to get to the area, some homesteaders flew to or took a barge to neighboring Kenai and then hiked eleven miles to Soldotna. Others took the Alaska railroad to Moose Pass and then traversed 70 miles of rugged Alaskan terrain to the place they would eventually call home. That same year, the Sterling Highway right-of-way was bulldozed from Cooper Landing to Kenai. Soldotna was selected as the site for the Sterling Highway Bridge crossing the Kenai River.

The opening of the Sterling Highway provided a link to the outside world. The highway opened up the region to more homesteading and brought visiting sportsmen to the area for the first time. Soldotna’s first post office opened in 1949, with stores and a community center following shortly thereafter. In 1952, residents formed a Community Club and Chamber of Commerce. In 1957, oil was discovered in the Swanson River region, bringing new development to the Kenai Peninsula. In 1960, Soldotna incorporated as a fourth class city with a population of 332.  The first Mayor of Soldotna was Don Wilson.  A new post office and airport were constructed in 1962.  With the approval of first class city status in 1967, Soldotna borrowed the funds necessary to establish a $2.3 million water and sewer system.

During the growth years of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Soldotna established itself as a service center for the Borough, the site for Central Peninsula General Hospital, the Kenai Peninsula College, the Alaska State Trooper Headquarters, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and the administrative headquarters for the Kenai Peninsula Borough.  Soldotna has become an important administrative hub for the Central Kenai Peninsula.

Soldotna takes it name from Soldotna Creek, a meandering stream that empties into the world famous Kenai River. The name Soldotna is attributed to two sources. Some historians say the name is a Russian word meaning “soldier.” Others say the name is an Athabascan word meaning “stream fork.” The city of Soldotna developed ten miles east of Kenai, a city which began as a Dena’ina settlement in 1741. Today the two cities share an integrated economy while maintaining separate identities. The two communities are often referred to as the “Twin Cities.” Located 150 road miles south of Anchorage, Soldotna is the hub of the Kenai Peninsula.  It is home to the administrative headquarters of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the seat of the peninsula’s government, the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

As may be seen from the following travel and tourism promotional materials from The City of Soldotna, community and the environment are inextricably linked, a theme that is promoted in all schools on the peninsula.

The motto of The City of Soldotna is “Caring for the River and Each Other”

Soldotna — Where the Kenai River flows through a vital community which provides a safe, friendly home; where citizens take pride and responsibility for their extraordinary quality of life; visitors feel welcome and aspire to return.

Soldotna is one of the few places in the United States where the epic saga of Western expansion, homesteading, land clearing, road building, civic growth, and development have occurred within the lifetime of most long-term residents. The parents of many of the Soldotna civic leaders homesteaded here after World War II, helped construct the Sterling Highway and the bridge over the Kenai River, and actively participated in the growth and development of the community.

Soldotna’s seasonal population varies widely, expanding during the summer season to accommodate various recreation activities and tourists.  In fact, on busy summer weekends, the entire population of the Kenai Peninsula Borough can more than double, as Anchorage-area residents descend to the Kenai for fishing and other outdoor activities

City of Soldotna Statistics*

Population: 4,021

Area: 7.5 square miles

Sales Tax

3% (City)

3% (Borough)

Property Tax

.65 mills (City)

7.82 mills (Borough mill rate within Soldotna City limits)

Municipal Facilities & Utilities*

Water – 36.02 miles of main, 1303 service connections, 803,785 gallons per day average consumption, 344 fire hydrants

Sanitary Sewer – 26.63 miles of main, 1,303 service connections, 629,000 gallons per day average treated at a single treatment plant.

Soldotna Municipal Airport

Soldotna Police Department – 1 police station, 15 officers and staff

Soldotna Sports Center and Conference Center

Soldotna Public Library

Parks and Campgrounds – 2 campgrounds and 8 parks, total acreage 223.10

Streets – 40.71 miles (for street names and linear footage see Soldotna Municipal Code Section 12.11.020, Road Maintenance Service Area—-Streets Included)


Soldotna experiences mild summers and relatively warm winters for its northern latitude. January temperatures range from 6° F to 24° F, while July temperatures average from 45 to 66° F. Annual precipitation averages 17.4 inches.


The City of Soldotna sits approximately 10 miles inland from the shores of Cook Inlet. The Kenai River runs through the City on its way to empty into Cook Inlet. To the east of the City lies the community of Sterling and the Kenai mountains. To the south are the communities of Kasilof, Clam Gulch, Ninilchik, and Anchor Point and the City of Homer. To the west lies the City of Kenai and to the northwest, the community of Nikiski.  The Kenai River is an important landmark and economic mainstay for the City. The river is famous for its trophy size king salmon, and its silver salmon, red salmon, and Dolly Varden. In addition, migratory birds and other waterfowl make the river and its surrounding wetlands their home. Soldotna is home to many other types of wildlife, including moose, bears, caribou, and birds.

Recommended Dress*

It is wisest to wear layered clothing during your visit. You can find yourself warm one minute and in need of a sweater the next. For summer be sure to pack a sweater and a coat. A water resistant coat is good if you plan to camp or fish. Clothing tends to be more on the casual side. If you are visiting in the fall or winter, bring a warm coat, hat, gloves, and boots. 


Commercial Fishing

Oil and Gas


Service and Retail

Major Employers*

Central Peninsula General Hospital

Kenai Peninsula Borough and School District

Fred Meyer Retail Store

Safeway Store

Kenai Peninsula College

City of  Soldotna


Soldotna Historical Society Museum/Post Office

Kenai Wildlife Refuge

Fishing on the Kenai River

Hiking/Berry Picking

Rodeo Grounds


Little League Ball Games

Golf Course

Bowling Alley

Roller Skating Rink

Soldotna Sports Center – Ice Skating Rink

Visitor Facilities*

A library, visitor center, sports center, police department, schools, fire protection, senior center and hospital. The community has two swimming pools located at the two respective high schools. Soldotna is home to several radio stations. Bed & Breakfasts and hotels are located close to fishing.


The City of Soldotna owns Centennial Park and Swiftwater Campgrounds. Located on the Kenai River they are prime spots to get in a little fishing. Centennial Park has a boat ramp and a Fishwalk for easy access to the Kenai River. Rotary Park is handicap accessible.

*Used with permission of The City of Soldotna


The city of Soldotna is home to 4,021 residents, with many more who reside beyond the city limits. The population reached its peaked in 1986 and then declined moderately until 1990. The four year decline resulted from poor economic conditions irritated by the fall in international oil prices. Since 1990, the economy has remained relatively stable, and the population has continued to increase. Increased oil prices and a housing market largely unaffected by the real estate meltdown have contributed to a stable economy, thus allowing for continued population growth. One demographic of particular note is a burgeoning retirement community. Many retirees are moving to the area, establishing both full time and part time residences.


Soldotna is primarily a residential and service oriented community. Many local residents work outside of the city in the oil, gas, mining, and commercial fishing industries. Though not major sources of employment within Soldotna itself, these industries greatly impact the economy of the area. Major areas of employment within Soldotna itself include local government, the school district, retail and service, and tourism.

Over the last decade Soldotna has increasingly become the hub of business and visitor activity in the area. Two shopping centers, several strip malls, banks, restaurants, offices, and retail outlets form the commercial district. Vacant land and undeveloped property are available for business development. As Soldotna has attracted more retirees, health services have expanded dramatically on the central peninsula. The local hospital has undergone an extensive renovation and expansion program, offering services once only found in Anchorage. As a result of the expansion, a support community of related medical services has grown up around the hospital and continues to expand.

Tourism plays a vital role in the community as thousands of visitors come to fish the waters of the Kenai River for world class salmon. In addition to fishing, visitors trek through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, hike the hundreds of nearby trails, and take advantage of the innumerable lakes within easy driving distance. As tourism is a seasonal industry, annual unemployment rates typically shift between 7% to 15%.