The Kilcher family has a longstanding relationship with the Alaskan expanse, and has worked hard to live off the lands since the early 1940s. Their subsistence lifestyle has recently been made famous on the Discovery Channel show “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” which showcases the daily lives of the current living members of the Kilcher family tree. The show showed how the Kilchers preserved their way of life at their homestead, located outside of Homer, Alaska.
Today, the remaining members of the Kilcher family still live in the same homestead from the early 1940s. They offer a variety of different area tours and classes, along with a Kilcher Homestead Living Museum, which gives visitors a look in early Kilcher family life.
Let’s take a closer look at where the Kilcher family tree got their start, their way of life, and the various activities they offer to the community through their homestead.
Who is the Kilcher Family?
The history of the Kilcher family tree starts with Yule Kilcher, who was born in Switzerland in the year 1913. During World War 2, Yule left Switzerland in search of a new home for his family and friends that was far from European conflict. In 1936, he learned that you could obtain 600 acres of free land in Alaska.
Yule claimed his land and built a tiny one-room cabin where he would move with his wife, Ruth, and their three daughters. With no access to electricity, the Kilcher family had to learn to live off the land through hunting and gathering. This included activities such as farming wild greens, catching salmon, and hunting moose.
Growing Roots for the Kilcher Family?
Throughout the years, Yule and Ruth had a total of 8 children, all of which grew up learning how to use the wilderness to survive. Since there was no roads or means of transportation, the children were homeschooled up until their early teenage years. Together, the family worked hard to grow their tiny cabin into a self-sustaining homestead.
Yule and Ruth first stepped into the eye of the public with “A Pioneer Family in Alaska,” a documentary about their quaint homestead. The documentary explored the pioneer lifestyle, and made the Kilcher family famous as the couple toured it across Europe.
In the wake of their popularity, Yule was appointed as one of the 55 delegates to write the Alaskan constitution in 1955. Yule later served in the Alaska Senate during the 1960s, while Ruth had a regular column in the Anchorage Daily News.
Alaska: The Last Frontier
The reality show “Alaska: The Last Frontier” first premiered in December of 2011, and features the daily lives of the Kilcher family. The show focuses mainly around two of the oldest Kilcher brothers, Atz and Otto.
Atz has spent his entire life on the Kilcher homestead, though has made a name for himself as a cowboy poet, singer-songwriter, and an expert yodeler. He’s also well known as the father of Jewel, a well-known pop singer-songwriter who was born on the homestead herself. Atz is also the father of three sons, who live on the homestead with their father.
Otto is the sixth oldest child of Yule and Ruth Kilcher, and has spent most of his life on the homestead. He’s well known for his mechanical prowess, which made him the go-to fixer of the family. He is also the homestead cow herder, keeping the cows healthy and well fed to provide the family with healthy grass-fed beef. Otto has four sons that live on the homestead with him and help him with the daily tasks.
A typical episode of “Alaska: The Last Frontier” focuses on the day-to-day life of the Kilcher family as they work hard to live off the land. There has been a total of 7 seasons of the show, with an eighth season currently in production. Many of these seasons focus on the family’s struggle to prepare the homestead for the harsh Alaskan winters and give viewers insight to the hard work involved with keeping up the Kilcher family tree.
Where is the Kilcher Family Homestead?
The Kilcher Family Homestead is located outside of Homer, a small city located on the Kachemak Bay in the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is located on the western end of the U.S. highway system, so visitors from across the border can easily drive to the city without having to rely on a ferry or airplane.
The Kilcher Family Homestead is located about twelve miles up the road from Homer. To get to the homestead, get on East End Road and ride for about 15 minutes until you reach Kilcher Road. The road leads straight to the 600-acre Kilcher property
Kilcher Family Homestead Community Activities
Along with the daily work and filming, the Kilcher family offers up their services to visitors looking to get a glimpse of the Kilcher way of life. All activities are overseen by members of the Kilcher family tree, typically one of the six sisters living on the homestead. There are also lodging accommodations available, as well as
Kilcher Homestead Living Museum
The museum was put together by the Kilcher family to give visitors insight to how their family has lived on the homestead for decades. The museum features a variety of different artifacts that depict what life was like for the Kilcher family. This includes things such as old photographs, hand-made utensils, schoolbooks, farm instruments, and more. Tours of the Kilcher Homestead Living Museum must be arranged ahead of time so you can ensure that one of the Kilcher family members is there to give you a look into their pioneer lifestyle.
Annual Homestead Games
The Kilcher family has hosted the Annual Homestead Games since 2006, where they open up their land to the locals to compete in their popular sporting events. The feature competitions include a nail pounding contest, “run for the coal” race, and a log-sawing contest. There are also plenty of games and activities for the children, including a fish toss and tractor ride. The Kilcher family typically invites many local vendors and entertainers to provide guests with the best homestead experience. Typically, the Kilchers hold their Annual Homestead Games in early July.
There are plenty of wild birds found out in the Alaskan wilderness, and the members of the Kilcher family tree want to help you learn all about them. Mossy Kilcher is the resident expert of wild birds and specializes in the study and appreciation of local bird life. She can point out the majestic beauty of the Sandhill cranes, cliff swallows. If you’re lucky, you may get to see a bald eagle out on the hunt or perching in its nest. No matter what time of year, there are always plenty of birds to see while visiting the Kilcher Family Homestead.
Birding tours are offered at any time, as long as you are sure to call to make your appointment in advance.
Jam Making Workshops
Have you ever wondered how to make delicious homemade jam? The Kilchers have you covered with their wild berry jam workshops, offered by Fay Graham. In this workshop you will go out into the Kilcher property to pick wild berries such as raspberries and blackberries. You will then learn how to clean and prep the berries to be made into fresh jam. After the workshop, you will be given some of the jam to take home and enjoy it with your favorite bread or biscuit.
The jam making workshops are given through the Kilcher Homestead Living Museum and must be booked ahead of time.
Wild Mushroom Hunting
Have you ever taken a hike out in the woods and found some mushrooms that you were curious about but couldn’t identify? At the Kilcher homestead, you can join the Kilcher family on a wild mushroom hunting tour, where you can find hundreds of different types of mushrooms that are safe to eat. Not sure what kind of mushroom you found? Point it out to your expert tour guide to get insight to the type of mushroom you have found, and whether or not it’s safe to gather.
Members of the Kilcher family have mushroom tours that can be booked ahead of time, as well as a mushroom gathering event that they hold annually.
Is the Kilcher Homestead Worth a Visit?
If you want a look into the life of an Alaskan pioneer family, then the Kilcher homestead has everything to offer. Fans of “Alaska: The Last Frontier” will particularly enjoy seeing all of their favorite spots from the show and partaking in many of the activities that the Kilcher family must carry out every year. Lodging and space for camping is available for customers who want to spend some time out in the fresh Alaskan air. For those looking for a tour, be sure to call ahead at 907-235-8713 to ensure someone will be available during your visit.