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Life in Alaska

Agencies, Community Fix Campground Bridge to Enable Access to Boat Ramp, Gulkana River

SourdoughCampground1.jpg
Bureau of Land Management/Facebook
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A popular boat launch that leads to a prime fishing spot on the Gulkana River is busy again, now that a bridge in the Sourdough Creek Campground near Glennallen has been repaired.

Federal workers spent last weekend fixing a bridge in the campground that leads to a boat launch on Sourdough Creek that accesses to an area on the Gulkana River renowned for great fishing – especially for king salmon.

“We’re so glad to announce that the repairs are complete and the campground and boat launch are a hundred percent open, in time for people to go fishing and enjoy next weekend’s solstice!” says Marnie Graham, who manages the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Glennallen Field Office.

Graham says the bridge repair is welcome news to both local and statewide fishermen and the guides who help them get to the best spots on the Gulkana River. It’s also a favorite staging area for boaters who float down from areas upriver, some from as far away as Paxson Lake.

“We heard from many users,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “This region is a pretty tightknit community, and we understand how important access is to fishing and guiding and other recreation uses on this stretch of the river.

One of those users is Joseph Hart, who for years lived in Copper Center until he took another job in Anchorage a few years ago. He glad that he won’t have to change plans to use the launch this summer.

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Credit Bureau of Land Management/Facebook
A worker drops big riprap into a hole where high-running water eroded material from around the base of a concrete support on an approach to the Sourdough Creek Campground last weekend.

“It’s a relief, because it provides an access point that provides so many activities that you can do from that area,” he said in an interview today.

Hart says he like many others enjoys using the ramp for recreational boating and fishing. He says he also used it many times while he was working for BLM out of the Glennallen office.

“We’d have recreation staff that would take out there after rafting from Paxson Lake down,” he said, “and then we’d also have staff that would be carried up to do the fish-counting at the State of Alaska fish-counting towers.”

Graham says the BLM had to close the 21-year-old bridge in April after high water created by an upstream ice jam badly eroded gravel and rocks on one of the approaches to the structure.

“One of the concrete supports had lost most of the material around it, that had previously supported it,” she said. “And our first concern about the damage at the site was making sure the bridge was structurally sound.”

That’s especially important because it’s commonly used by such heavy rigs as RVs, water trucks and front-end loaders. Graham says despite the outcry from boaters and other users, she knew it would be hard to get funding and state and federal approval to repair the approaches to the bridge in time for use this season. But, she persisted, and the agencies expedited the necessary permits.

“We’re so grateful to State of Alaska and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for helping approve permits quickly,” she said.

A local contractor juggled his schedule so he could deliver enough gravel and rip-rap last week to shore up the bridge approach. And she got help from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workers from the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, who brought equipment and worked at the site last weekend.

“I really want to give a special thanks to the staff at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge for hauling heavy equipment to the site and working their weekend to make this repair happen.”

Graham also thanked the community and boat-launch users for their patience while the BLM worked out a way to fix the bridge. It was reopened Monday, and she says the campground is busy again with fishermen and floaters and other users.

“So, fish on!” she said. “But, please remember bear awareness.”

Graham says BLM staff are advising campers and boaters to keep an eye out for bears, who’ve been spotted around the area recently, because without the ramp the campground’s been nearly empty. Until now.