Growing up as kid in Kenai, the road along the south side of the lower river was always called Kalifonsky (emphatically no "R" in the spelling). I remember how my sixth grade teacher at Kenai Elementary, Mrs Besch, frequently bemoaned the daily commute upriver to Soldotna and back downriver on the other side of the Kenai River. Back then there was no Warren Ames Bridge in Kenai. I used to think how funny she sounded when she said "K.... Beach Road" in her adorable southern accent.
About a decade ago (hey maybe more) the signage along the new and improved widened thoroughfare changed the spelling to Kalifornsky (addition of the goofy "R"). I've always wondered what's that all about? Did someone at DOT screw up? But as the years went by, the signs stayed and proliferated with the new and improved spelling.
Finally googled it today and this is what I found... a bit of a neat local history lesson.
History and culture
The place name Kalifonsky (omitting the letter r) was noted in 1916 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, with its etymology attributed to an Indian word kali meaning "fishermen."
However, this place name appears to have been due to a mistaken transcription of the village name Kalifornsky, which took its name from the surname of the village's founder, a Dena'inaIndian named Qadanalchen (meaning "acts quickly" in the Outer Inlet dialect of the Dena'ina language). Qadanalchen had worked at the Russian American colony of Fort Ross in California from about 1812 to about 1821. On his return to Alaska, Qadanalchen took the name Kalifornsky, the Russian equivalent of "Californian."
Qadanalchen's great-great-grandson, the self-taught Dena'ina writer and ethnographer Peter Kalifornsky (1911–1993) was born in Kalifornsky village, which used to lie about 10 miles south of Kenai and about 4 miles north of the mouth of the Kasilof River.