This map generated by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge shows the areas that are open and closed to snowmachining on the Kenai Peninsula. The refuge opened all areas traditionally allowed for snowmachining Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 after the peninsula got enough snowfall over the weekend. (Photo courtesy Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

This map generated by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge shows the areas that are open and closed to snowmachining on the Kenai Peninsula. The refuge opened all areas traditionally allowed for snowmachining Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 after the peninsula got enough snowfall over the weekend. (Photo courtesy Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)

Refuge opens to snowmachining

Snowmachiners of the Kenai Peninaula can rejoice for the first time in three years — the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has opened every area where the pastime is allowed.

The refuge manager can authorize smowmobile use on the refuge between Dec. 1 and April 30 “when snow depth is sufficient to protect underlying vegetation and terrain,” according to a Tuesday release from the refuge. All areas traditionally open to snowmachining are currently open, which can be seen on a map on the refuge website.

Areas closed to snowmobiles include the Headquarters tract on Ski Hill Road, the Skilak Lake Loop Special Management Area, the Swanson River and Swan Lake Canoe systems and the Wolf Lake Pipeline corridor, according to the release. Any areas above timerline are also closed, except those in the Caribou Hills area near Ninilchik, the release states.

Deputy Manager Steve Miller said the refuge has not been able to open in its entireity to snowmachining for the last three years.

“We got an additional snowfall over the weekend that just puts us over what we thought was needed in order to be able to open it,” he said.

The Caribou Hills were open to snowmobiles last year, Miller said, but nothing was open the year before. The refuge was opened to snowmachines in the winter of 2013-14, but only for about a month before it had to be closed again, he said.

Anyone who snowmachines on the refuge has to display state registration, according to the refuge release. They should also avoid wildlife and be cautious when crossing lakes, rivers and streams “which may not yet be sufficiently frozen or have substantial overflow,” according to the release.

For more information, call the refuge at (907) 262-7021.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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