A History Lesson in Ninilchik Alaska

Ninilchik (Нинильчик), Alaska is a small village on the Kenai Peninsula about 2 hours south of Anchorage.The village has a population of just over 800 people.  What catches your eye as you drive down Sterling Highway is a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church up on a bluff overlooking the river.

I knew there was more to this village so I pulled in to check it out.  First, I just sat on the banks of the river to watch the bald eagles dive for lunch. What a sight, I counted at least a dozen. Then I wandered up to the Church, Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel, beautifully simplistic.  As I talked with some of the locals, they shared a bit of the community’s history with me.




Ninilchik was a hunting and fishing area for the Dena’ina Athabaskan people. In the 1800’s the village became a Russian settlement for retired and infirmed people with the help of the Russian-American Company. Soon, other Russian settlers from other parts of Alaska would migrate to the area.  Eventually, it became a thriving town. The church cemetery reflects the families that long ago made this area home.

Even after Alaska was sold, most villagers chose to stay. The Ninilchik Russian language sometimes referred to as Old Russian, is still spoken by a handful of people and is now being documented for historical preservation.




Ninilchik has gone through many changes over the decades. The 1964 earthquake and a fire in 2007 caused considerable damage resulting in part of the village being moved and rebuilt. Some of the original buildings remain such as the original Russian schoolhouse.

Mt. Redoubt in the distance


Today, it is still known for great salmon fishing and razor clam digging, abundant wildlife, and snowmobiling in the winter. They also have their annual salmon festival, which is popular with tourists during the summer.  Ninilchik is a wonderful part of Alaska’s history and just a nice place to spend an afternoon on the river bank watching the wildlife and picnicking.


*****All pictures taken by Simple Sojourner unless otherwise noted.

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  1. I had no idea Russians would have their own town in Alaska. It is pretty common in Eastern and Northern Europe, but I never thought it would happen in the states for some reason. What a beautiful natural setting with abundance of wildlife though. These people are very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

  2. I was totally unaware of this Russian historical village in Alaska! Really surprised to know that the town has its own specific Russian language! I am thankful to you for sharing this post with us.

  3. Wow, I love the idea of a sort-of Russian town found in Alaska. Ninilchik looks like a really intriguing place and the orthodox church is an interesting blend of architectures. Great wildlife too it seems.

  4. Fascinating! Alaska is somewhere I really want to visit (it’s a bucket list thing for me thanks really to one song by Michelle Shocked) I don’t know much about the history of Alaska so this has really piqued my interest!

  5. A salmon festival in Alaska sounds absolutely amazing. I really want to go to Alaska someday! Thanks for sharing your tips about this off-the-beaten track place 🙂

  6. Super interesting, Lisa. This was an important chapter in Russia’s history and I remember learning about Alaska as a kid at school. Looks like a fascinating place to visit and if I ever do find myself in Alaska, I will make a point of going here!

  7. Thank you for the history lesson. I would love to visit this place one day, the salmon festival sounds so good. I love the pictures, especially the ones with the eagles. Crazy you saw so many in one sitting, I am jealous.

  8. Lovely! We love to stay in quiet villages like these. Makes us feel refreshed after the hustle and bustle of the city. Scenery is stunning as well, and we would love to hike around the place, making Ninilchik our jump-off/exit point.

    Our boss is from Alaska. Hope he can sponsor us here. LOL! Calling Kristian?

  9. How absolutely fascinating! I did not know that Alaska had Russian settlers, you learn something every day! What a gorgeous place to visit as well, thank you so much for my history lesson today, love it. #feetdotravel

  10. As soon as I saw you’d followed Ninchilik with Russian letters I wondered why. And then I read on! So interesting to learn there’s a Russian settlement in Alaska, I never would have thought it!

  11. Wow, so beautiful pictures! Is so nice you saw the eagles! Since I moved to Russia, I researched a lot about their history, and I came across about the Russian community in Alaska. I hope to go to visit one day!

  12. Talk about going off the beaten path – this is great! The Russian heritage and history is quite fascinating and that little Orthodox church is just so adorable. Thanks for sharing your journey to this very little known place!

  13. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska for it’s natural beauty and wildlife. I can’t wait to get the opportunity to explore there. Always nice to have a surprising visit to a small town and just enjoy life.

  14. Wow, I had no idea there was a large Russian community in Alaska! I guess it makes sense because they are so close, but it’s still weird! Russia wasn’t big enough for their “infirm”?

  15. What a beautiful place Ninilchik is! I can’t believe you saw so many bald eagles in one sitting. That would be a site to see in itself. 🙂

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