Thursday morning was just a tad chilly in Interior Alaska. Fort Yukon dropped to -45F. The record low for the date in Fort Yukon is -68F, so it’s still balmy from that vantage point.
The Fairbanks airport hit -20F at 8am on Thursday. The first time we had officially dropped to -20 for the season. We are 2-1/2 weeks late (November 19) from the average first -20 of the season, but we are still 10 days earlier than in 2018.
The temp at the cabin at 8am was -26F on Thursday.
The Russian-American Company was established in 1799. The RAC received a renewable 20-year charter, which granted the company exclusive rights over trade in Russia’s North American territory.
The fur trade led the RAC to build a trading post on the Middle Kuskokwim River in 1841, which they named Kolmakovsky Redoubt. The blockhouse, above, was the first building erected. Eight more structures would also be constructed.
A map showing location of Kolmakovsky Redoubt on the Middle Kuskokwim
Kolmakovsky was the only Russian redoubt to be constructed in Alaska’s Interior. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the redoubt eventually transferred to the Alaska Commercial Company.
The blockhouse stood alongside the Kuskokwim River for over 80 years. In 1929, the building was donated to the University of Alaska. The eight-sided log building was dismantled, the logs numbered, and then shipped to Fairbanks. It remained in storage for the next 50 years.
In 1982, the blockhouse, which has a diameter of 17′, was reconstructed behind the Museum of the North, on the UAF campus. In 2009, the University received a grant from the “Saving America’s Treasures” program to to do an all out restoration. A concrete pad was poured, any rotten logs were fabricated as the originals, and the roof was rebuilt. All but one of the interior horizontal roof supports are original.
The spruce logs are all connected by interlocking dovetail notches. There are no windows, only a low doorway, and three narrow musket slots. The Kolmakovsky blockhouse is the only Russian blockhouse ever found with a sod roof, the rest were all built with a plank roof.
Today, the blockhouse from Kolmakovsky Redoubt is still located near the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska – Fairbanks campus. The Kolmakovsky Redoubt site on the Kuskokwim has been placed on the Alaska Heritage list of historic properties and archaeological sites. A detailed excavation of the site was completed during the 1966 and 1967 summers by UCLA professor Wendall H. Oswalt. Well over 5000 artifacts were excavated, which are now a part of the collection at the Museum of the North.
It was announced last week that the Centennial Center for the Arts at Pioneer Park would close abruptly due to safety concerns. 5 of 22 columns that hold up the roof and walls are rotting from the inside. The 52 year old Centennial Center is usually a busy place during the holiday season, so the closure will displace several special events, as well as the main tenant of the center: the Fairbanks Arts Association. Repairs are expected to take 3-4 months. Hopefully, the Borough will complete the needed repairs. In 2014, seven columns had to undergo similar repairs.
The SS Nenana
The historic SS Nenana, also located at Pioneer Park, is desperately needing a resurrection. Interior tours were ended a couple of years ago, and I know the Friends of the SS Nenana are working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough to undergo the needed repairs and restoration. I would have to believe time is of the essence with the old sternwheeler.
Alaskans have been enjoying the recent snowfall combined with some relatively warm temperatures. Been out skijoring without your bear spray? State biologists are saying Alaskans may want to rethink that.
Due to the warmer than average weather and the availability of food, bears have not gone into hibernation just yet.
Black bears tend to start their winter hiatus in October, while brown bears like to hang around into November as they attempt to pack on every calorie possible.
This year, the bears seem to be not in any rush to turn in. Like always, it’s a good idea to pay attention out there, but don’t forget to keep the cabin site clean of trash. One brown bear in the Anchorage area has taken to raiding garbage cans this month. No one needs that, especially the bear.