Tag Archives: ruins

The “Can’t Run & Never Will”

Continuing with the Alaska Rail Theme:

Photo courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives

A private train from the Copper River & Northwestern Railway stable, in front of the Chitina Depot, September 1914. It makes me wonder if J.P. Morgan, a lead investor in the Alaska Syndicate, ever visited Kennecott Mines.

Today, Kennecott is still famous for its copper ore, and Chitina is famous for its “Where the Hell is Chitina?” bumper stickers. And salmon: Chitina is the gateway for Interior Alaska dip netting.


Collision at Bootleggers Cove

Engine #553 meets Engine #901 at Bootleggers Cove

The only head on collision in Alaska Railroad history happened on this date in 1943. The northbound freight train coming up from Seward met the southbound passenger train on its way to Whittier at 8:45 am at Bootleggers Cove, just west of downtown Anchorage. Minor injuries were reported, but no deaths. One rail car partially overturned, but the rest remained on the tracks.

Engine 553 climbs aboard Engine 901

The Cove:

During Prohibition, Anchorage had some strict liquor laws. The new town of Anchorage, was a bit of a pet project for then President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson sectioned off the city in grids and auctioned the parcels off to residents. One catch: If anyone who purchased parcels were caught with alcohol, the parcels would be repossessed. The rail line ran between the new residential area and the tidal flats. There was a cove below the rail and between Chester Creek and Ship Creek that was a favorite landing spot for bootleggers and their booty, because it was out of sight of the authorities. Thus the renaming of the cove to Bootleggers Cove.


It was 1975…

and a very different world.

John Denver was in Alaska to film a television special in 1975, and someone thought: “Hey! Let’s have John run around a derelict mine!” In 1975, Kennecott Mines had not yet been listed as a National Historic Landmark, so I’m guessing Denver was not the only individual to run across the rooftops. One more item on the lists of things not allowed today.

The music added to the video was from a 1981 John Denver concert. Song credit, of course, goes to Hall of Famer Chuck Berry.


The remnants of Merbok…

…still packed quite the punch.

Graphic credit: NWS-Fairbanks

The western coast of Alaska was pummeled over the weekend by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. Sustained winds over 50 mph, with gusts over 90; 50 foot waves and a storm surge 15 feet above high tide left many evacuating to higher ground.

Image credit: NOAA

It was the worst storm our Western Coast has experienced in 50 years, and it has been 70 years since a storm this fierce hit in September.

Front Street, Nome, Alaska; Image credit: S.Kinneen

To its credit, The National Weather Service was remarkably accurate in its forecast of the storm. Several days out, the NWS was getting out the word that this was going to be a devastating flooding event. All the ingredients came together perfectly to create some “very angry seas”.

A house swept off its foundation by flood waters, stuck at the Snake River Bridge in Nome, Alaska; Photo credit: Alaska DOT&PF
From the steps of the school in Golovin, Alaska; Photo credit: Josephine Daniels

High winds have taken roofs off of buildings, one building in Nome suffered from a fire, and the storm surge has evicted hundreds. Many took shelter in schools, or to higher ground.

My favorite village of Newtok has been flooded, and many have taken to the school for shelter. The riverbank at Newtok has eroded between 10-15 feet overnight. Newtok is one of several villages in Alaska in dire need of relocation due to erosion and sinking ground.

Water levels in many flooded villages are not expected to drop until Monday, and in some cases Tuesday. The timing of the storm is particularly difficult, with winter on the horizon. The village of Shaktoolik lost its sea berm to the storm, which leaves it vulnerable to additional winter storms. The village of Chevak lost much of its fishing fleet when boats sank or were damaged in the storm.

We really have two seasons in Alaska: Winter, and Preparing for Winter. Preparing for winter in Western Alaska is now going to be a huge challenge.


’67 Flood

Aerial photo of Fairbanks after the Chena River overflowed its banks

This week is the 55th Anniversary of the Great Flood of 1967 that hit Fairbanks. The first half of August that year saw near continuous rainfall, that eventually was too much for the Chena and Tanana Rivers to hold back.

Downtown Fairbanks in August of 1967

At its peak, 95% of Fairbanks was under water. Over 6000 homes and businesses were a total loss, and as many sustained damage. Eight people lost their lives due to the flooding.


SS Nenana Day

On Saturday at Pioneer Park, the Borough will celebrate SS Nenana Day, to honor the Last Lady of the River.

The SS Nenana steamed the waters of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers between 1933 and 1954. It was officially retired in 1957, and has been a museum ship since 1965.

The SS Nenana; Photo credit: Fairbanks North Star Borough

The Nenana is one of only three steam-powered passenger sternwheelers left in the U.S. and the only large wooden steamer to survive the years.

Inside the Nenana’s wheelhouse

The Nenana has been neglected, restored, and then neglected once again. Efforts, including today’s celebration at Pioneer Park, are underway to try to stabilize, and hopefully restore the Last Lady of the Yukon.


Alaska Time

A landslide across Lowell Point Road, outside Seward, Alaska

A landslide blocked Lowell Point Road in Seward over the weekend. Workers began to cautiously clear the road on Monday. Lowell Point is outside Seward, and the narrow gravel road follows the shoreline of Resurrection Bay out to the point, where there are several campgrounds, lodges, resorts and B&B’s. It’s a pretty area, dominated by the beauty of Resurrection Bay. As of Tuesday, there were at least 40 cars trapped on the “wrong” side of the landslide. No word on how many travelers, who were trying to get out to Lowell Point, and now can not get to their destination.

The landslide view from the air

This post is less about the landslide, and more about giving yourself extra time when visiting Alaska, and accepting the unexpected.

This is Alaska, after all.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints online about the slide from tourists, and I know several housing accommodations have taken some flack for the road closure. No matter where you are in Alaska, and this includes Los Anchorage, you are never very far from wilderness. That is the main draw of the place.

Our infrastructure is minimal when compared with the Lower 48. Many communities have one way in and one way out. In my time in Alaska, I’ve probably seen it all: Roads closed from landslides, wash outs, beaver dams, ornery moose and/or grizzly, avalanche and wildfires. Flights delayed or rushed because of blizzards, volcanic eruptions, and pilot strikes. Sometimes, all you can do is take a deep breath, open a cold refreshment, and chill out for a day… or two…

We all have deadlines, but sometimes we find ourselves dealing with forces that have no interest in flight departures. So, if you visit Alaska, by all means, get out and explore the state, but leave the time planner at home. Enjoy both the view and the ride.


Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

National Parks Week: Day Two

The Valley, several years after the Novarupta eruption

The Ukak River Valley was dramatically altered on 6 June 1912, when Novarupta erupted for over 60 hours. The volcanic blast was the largest of the 20th Century. Pyroclastic flows filled the Ukak Valley, which was followed by a dumping of volcanic ash. The intense heat, trapped by the ash, took decades to cool. Water, also trapped by the ash, became superheated steam, and escaped through a series of fumaroles, which inspired the renaming of the valley.

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes today

Photos credit: Katmai National Park & Preserve


27 March 1964

Anchorage, Alaska after the 9.2 Good Friday Earthquake


Katmai, Alaska; circa 1912

Katmai after the Novarupta Eruption; Photo was taken 9 weeks after the eruption

The eruption of Novarupta on 6 June 1912 was the largest of the 20th Century. The village of Katmai was destroyed in the eruption, buried under as much as 18 inches of volcanic ash.