Water on the early part of the trail was knee-high in parts. PHOTO COURTESY OF NPS/C. STEWART
By DAN FOX
Despite recent flooding along the early portion of the Chilkoot Trail, ongoing National Park Service (NPS) projects have remained relatively unaffected by the rising waters of the Taiya River.
The trail was closed temporarily on Aug. 13 due to flooding from the Taiya River. It was reopened soon after, though part of the trail was still soaked in knee-high water.
The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park’s new Director of Maintenance Aric Baldwin said the only real impact to construction was just a delay in getting personnel to work sites.
Some of the park’s maintenance endeavors are swiftly nearing completion, Baldwin said.
The park has been working on a number of things along the trail. One of these projects is a new wooden boardwalk over the watery area near the start of the trail known as the Beaver Ponds.
“There’s a section where you can kind of see the old boardwalk off to your right,” Baldwin said. “Those had been kind of a constant maintenance headache, they were always getting flooded over, tipping over, so we decided we’d do something a little more permanent in there to try to reduce our maintenance costs in the long term.”
Most of the work on the boardwalk has been done in the winter, Baldwin said, with crews waiting for the pods to freeze first so the personnel can walk about on the ice to easily do their work.
“It’s been going pretty well, we’re actually just finishing up that [project],” Baldwin said.
At Sheep Camp, located 13 miles up the trail, a new log cabin is being constructed for hikers.
This past spring, the NPS held a log cabin construction class in Skagway. A historic preservationist specializing in the topic came up from Wyoming, Baldwin said, and taught a class.
The cabin was pre-built during that in the Small Boat Harbor, and then was flown up to Sheep Camp and re-assembled.
Baldwin said there had used to be a cabin there, which had been built in 1963. In 2010 the roof had collapsed from snow load.
“So this has kind of been an ongoing project to fix that,” Baldwin said.
This structure is following the construction of the large-frame picnic shelter at Sheep Camp, which was built in 2016.
Construction on the Sheep Camp cabin is expected to wrap up by mid-September.
“The whole point is for us to make it easy and accessible and enjoyable for people to get out there and enjoy,” Baldwin said. “What we want is for the public to get out, get outside and hike, that’s the main goal.”