Kasilof River starts at the outlet of Tustumena Lake on the Kenai Peninsula and flows northwest for 17 miles (27 km) to Cook Inlet, about 51 miles (82 km) north-northeast of Homer and 13 miles (21 km) south-southwest of Kenai, Alaska. The river name is a Russian surname reported by the scientist Ilya Gavrilovich Voznesensky in 1840 and published by Mikhail Tebenkov as “Reka Kasilov”.
In June 1787, the Russian ship Saint Pavel owned by the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company and commanded by Potap Kuzmich Zaikov entered the mouth of the Kenai River to establish a trading post called Pavlovskaia near a Dena’ina village called Shk’ituk’t. The Russians called the native people “Kenaitze” which is a Russian term for “people of the flats”, or “Kenai people”. This settlement would later be known as Fort Nikolaevskaia and continued to be a Russian base of operations for the duration of their colonization of North America. They also established a fish camp or artel at the mouth of the Kasilof River and built a stockade and structures for drying fish and hay. An agricultural settlement of Dena’ina people grew up around the stockade and the area became known as the community of Kasilof after the Kasilof River in the 1800s. A partial excavation of the area in 1937 found 31 well-preserved houses from the original settlement.
In 1882, the Alaska Packing Company of San Francisco built the first salmon cannery in Cook Inlet on the right bank near the mouth of the Kasilof River. Machinery was salvaged from the Old Sitka cannery which had been erected by the Cutting Packing Company. The Alaska Packing Company cannery was sold to the Arctic Fishing Company in 1885 and it operated for five years before the loss of its cannery ship forced it to close for the season. In 1893, the company was merged with the Alaska Packers Association and continued operations until 1905 when the plant burned during the height of the fishing season. It was rebuilt the next spring and operated until 1922. Finally, in 1938, the Kasilof plant was dropped from the active list of area canneries. Between 1882 and 1950 there were at least 4 other canneries operating on the Kasilof River. The early residents of Kasilof were fishermen who settled along the river and augmented their fishing income with trapping and big game guiding. Kasilof became a destination for big game hunters from the late 1890s until the 1930s. Homesteading after World War II brought an influx of newcomers to Kasilof, many of whom came intending to farm but ended up working in the salmon fishing industry. Read more here and here. Explore more of Kasilof River here: