Web posted Wednesday, May 8, 2002

photo: culture

The new pedestrian trail alongside Homer Spit Road is a popular attraction for residents and visitors alike.

Where the road ends and the sea begins

Welcome to Homer, hub of the lower Kenai Peninsula, an area incomparably rich in natural wonders and recreational possibilities.

The Kenai Peninsula is an Alaska in miniature, a combination of mountain and meadow, coastline and island. The backbone of the peninsula is the Kenai Mountains, which separate the grassy lowlands and forested hills from the Gulf of Alaska and cradle the 1,000-square-mile Harding Icefield, a trackless inland ocean of 3 million-year-old ice.

Around Homer, rolling hills and ridges overlook Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. Bears, wolves and moose roam the uplands, and hundreds of thousands of birds of a dozen different species gather each spring to feed on the mudflats at the head of the Bay.

Until the early l950s, Homer was accessible only by boat or airplane, or by driving the sand and gravel beach from Kenai. The Sterling Highway now strings together the coastal towns of Ninilchik, Anchor Point and Homer, affording impressive views of volcanic Mount Iliamna, rising more than l0,000 feet above the sea, and Mount Redoubt, which became active again in 1989 after several decades of slumber.

Across Kachemak Bay, once said to be among the richest ecosystems in the world and still fabulously rich in marine life, mountains, glaciers and steep-walled fjords drop dramatically into the ocean. When wrapped in mist, the thick stands of spruce and hemlock lend an ethereal air to the secluded coves and bays. Seldovia, Halibut Cove, Nanwalek and Port Graham are ensconced in such sheltered recesses along the bay's southern shore.

The lower peninsula offers visitors an unparalleled blend of the wild and the picturesque, of vigorous life amid eternal beauty, where glimpses of an eagle soaring, a salmon charging the rapids, or a sunset burnishing the mountain crests leave impressions that can never fade.

Homer's population has grown to 4,000, but the city serves as a trading and service center for almost 13,000, from Anchor Point to the villages across Kachemak Bay. The city has a modern hospital, several newspapers, a branch campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage, public and commercial radio stations, a movie theater, thriving commercial and sport fishing fleets, and a high school considered one of the best in the nation.

The Kachemak Bay area is the arts capital of Southcentral Alaska. An impressive group of professional and amateur artists provide residents and visitors alike with art shows, dance, music and drama throughout the year. The Homer Council on the Arts also regularly brings nationally and internationally known performers to Homer.

The area's major industry is commercial fishing, which pumps millions of dollars a year into the economy through the sales of salmon, halibut and Pacific cod. But tourism is an important supplement, and the two industries thrive side by side in the Homer Small Boat Harbor.

Summer or winter, there is no end of interesting activities, challenging sports and breathtaking scenery to enjoy around Homer. Recreational and cultural opportunities are as varied as fishing for king salmon off Yukon Island in mid-winter and enjoying modern dance during the summer theater season.

We know you will enjoy your stay on the lower Kenai Peninsula and hope that this guide adds to your pleasure in our community.