Category Archives: Kasilof

Quake breaks K-Beach Road

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A 150-foot section of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof was damaged in the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Work crews began repairs Monday and both lanes were open Wednesday morning.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A 150-foot section of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof was damaged in the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Work crews began repairs Monday and both lanes were open Wednesday morning.

***Updated:****

Kalifornsky Beach Road reopened to two-way traffic Wednesday morning.

“They got in there, cut the pavement up, brought material in, filled the holes and leveled it out. Now, it will be gravel, of course, until the summer, because we can’t pave in the wintertime — it would not set. But it is open to two-way traffic,” said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy.

DOT will continue to monitor the area, especially during spring breakup as the ground starts to thaw.

“We certainly will monitor the area. I don’t think it will become a mess but you can always have shifting, even with any road. And that’s why they brought in the compactors and things like that to really shore up and tighten up that area, but they’ll of course keep an eye on it and if any additional material needs to be brought in, they will do that,” McCarthy said.

The paving project should be quick, as well.

We were fortunate that was a short section so it will probably be a very straightforward project, just putting together a permanent repair,” she said.

DOT is asking drivers to reduce their speed and use caution as they drive over that section of road.

Original story:

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though one lane of Kalifornsky Beach Road was still open to traffic Sunday afternoon, many drivers heading between Kenai and Kasilof stopped of their own volition. They wanted to see the gaping cracks in the pavement that occurred when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska around 1:30 that morning.

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Containing the Kasilof — State proposes new facilities for personal-use fishing crowds

Redoubt Reporter file photos by Joseph Robertia Above, crowds of dip-netters park on the beach at the mouth of the Kenai River in a previous fishing season. The Alaska Department of Natural resources is proposing a parking lot and other developments to help prevent some of the environmental harms, such as the littering, at right, that occur from the area’s  increasing use.

Redoubt Reporter file photos by Joseph Robertia
Above, crowds of dip-netters park on the beach at the mouth of the Kenai River in a previous fishing season. The Alaska Department of Natural resources is proposing a parking lot and other developments to help prevent some of the environmental harms, such as the littering, at right, that occur from the area’s increasing use.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With the ever-growing popularity of the Kasilof River personal-use fisheries, the beach is becoming increasingly recognized as an area being loved to death.

The crowds that come to fish, camp and recreate in the summer overtax the suitable parking and camping areas, and seasonal garbage and toilet facilities. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has incrementally increased services in recent years — and local efforts resulted in a fence to protect a stretch of sensitive sand dunes and beach grass on the south beach — but not enough to stem the tide of damages resulting from the flood of people each summer.

The department is stepping up its efforts on the north beach with a proposal to create a paved parking lot that can accommodate 315 vehicles, a two-way, 40-foot-wide beach access road and developed areas for seasonal Dumpsters and toilets. A 45-day public comment period began Oct. 15 and closes Nov. 30 on the site concept plan for the North Side Improvement Project planned for the Kasilof River Special Use Area.

“The issues or problems to be solved with this project include addressing degradation of sensitive coastal Kasilof the problemdunes and wetlands, unimproved parking areas, insufficient access for emergency and sanitation services and trespass onto private property,” Clark Cox, the department’s regional manager, stated by email.

So far the plan doesn’t propose instituting user fees, such as for parking or camping.

“User fees are not being proposed at this time. In order to have the ability to collect user fees for the Kasilof River Special Use Area during the personal-use fisheries at some point in the future, the department would be required to adopt a regulation through a public process,” Cox stated.

Participation in the personal-use fishery overall and at the Kasilof, in particular, has skyrocketed. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in the first year of the fishery, 1996, 14,575 permits were issued to Alaskans, and dip-netters participated on 1,300 “household days” at the Kasilof. A household day is fishing by one or more household member in a 24-hour period. For comparison, the Kenai River experienced 10,503 household days fished the same year.

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Harvesting knowledge — Schools cultivate learning opportunities with gardening projects

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kindergartener Jaxson Bush is assisted by sixth-grader Emilie Hinz while digging up potatoes from a garden at Tustumena Elementary School on Friday. The garden was planted to give kids hands-on learning experiences with science and math, as well as teaching them about the origins of the food they eat.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kindergartener Jaxson Bush is assisted by sixth-grader Emilie Hinz while digging up potatoes from a garden at Tustumena Elementary School on Friday. The garden was planted to give kids hands-on learning experiences with science and math, as well as teaching them about the origins of the food they eat.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Outside his classroom at Tustumena Elementary, sixth-grader Sam Booker dropped to his knees and began to claw at the soft, rich earth. His glasses slid to the end of his nose and dirt got under his nails, caked to his hands and stained the sleeves of his fleece jacket.

He was digging with the zeal of someone doing a task they want to do, rather than are told to do, but this was no recess game. It was part of a science lesson, learning in the most hands-on way possible. As the blond-haired boy plucked a small, round, red spud from the ground, a smile grew across his freckled face.

“I got one,” he shouted. Almost simultaneously, kids around him echoed similar sentiments as they, too, pulled up potatoes — reds, purples and Yukon golds in various lumpy shapes and sizes.

“It’s hard to imagine that, three years ago, there was no fence, no garden, nothing,” said sixth-grade teacher Shonia Werner.

The potato patch is in a 60-by-40-foot area adjacent to the school.

The kids planted it at the end of last school year, as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat program. The aim was to make school grounds more hospitable to wildlife while simultaneously providing a place for children to learn about and connect with nature.

Now in its second full year, the program is operating at Kaleidoscope School of Art and Sciences in Kenai, Sterling Elementary and Tustumena Elementary.

Part of the Tustumena habitat plot was planted with 200 felt-leaf willows, a hearty variety that’s often used for stream-bank restoration projects. Dan Funk, Schoolyard Habitat coordinator with the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District, did the bulk of the willow planting, hoping the school could eventually sell clippings as a fundraiser, while the kids could learn about science, nature and ecology in the interim.

Wanting to ripen the area for learning opportunities while the willows matured, instructors at the school also decided to plant a small garden, primarily made up of potato varieties due to their ability to thrive with minimal care during the summer break. It was clear from questions asked by this batch of sixth-graders this fall that they were in need of some food-chain knowledge.

“Are those the potatoes?” said one boy, pointing to the willow trees when the class first got outside. But by the end of the day, every student, from the sixth-graders down to the kindergarteners, knew what a potato plant looked like, that potatoes grew underground rather than on a bush like fruit, and a little about the annual cycle of planting, growing and harvesting.

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Grave concern — Volunteers undertake cemetery preservation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Tracy Miller, president of the Totem Tracers genealogical society, examines the remains of the Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery. The group is trying to preserve the site and expound on its history.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Tracy Miller, president of the Totem Tracers genealogical society, examines the remains of the Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery. The group is trying to preserve the site and expound on its history.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Up until about a year ago, you wouldn’t think there was anything special about the seemingly vacant lot along the last bend of Kasilof Beach Road before reaching the north beach of the river mouth.

But there’s more than just untamed grass sprinkled with trees and wildflowers, and littered with trash, toilet paper flags and other evidence of the illicit camping and vandalism that’s plagued the area during fishing season. There are indications of habitation that have stood for a century, but without intervention, won’t be standing for much longer.

That’s where Tracy Miller and the Totem Tracers genealogical society come in. The group has taken it upon itself to preserve the old Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery before the little-known burial site is lost to all but history.

“It’s an abandoned cemetery, it needed some help. These people, their headstones were made well enough that somebody cared enough for it to last over time. So I think that our generation at least should pick up and make sure that maybe they’ll last another 50 years, or 100 years,” Miller said.

In the late 1970s, the Totem Tracers set out to catalog all graves on the Kenai Peninsula, from Hope to Homer, and produced a book of their findings in 1983, which was updated in 2004.

“The genealogical society, we like dead people,” Miller said. “We like the history of it. We get a lot of local people trying to find relatives, and we’re hoping to be able to at least give them a little bit of help.”

The project unearthed a lot of interesting history, and one of the most intriguing finds was the Kasilof burial site. There are four century-old graves surrounded by wood picket fences, with 5-foot-tall, rounded, cedar plank-grave markers affixed to the fences, bearing raised lettering still legible today.

The oldest says, “In memory of William Freeman, a native of Finland. Aged 65 years. Died Sept. 30, 1906.” Next is Alex Benson, of Sweden, who died at age 38 on May 6, 1907. Harry Mason, of Norway, died June 4, 1915, at age 67.

A grave marker from the cemetery made its way to storage in the anthropology lab at Kenai Peninsula College after it was apparently stolen from the site.

A grave marker from the cemetery made its way to storage in the anthropology lab at Kenai Peninsula College after it was apparently stolen from the site.

The fourth marker is no longer at the site. It’s believed to have been stolen around 1980, and was discovered in a ditch around 1990. Soldotna Police found it and it ended up with Dr. Alan Boraas, anthropology professor at Kenai Peninsula College, who has been storing it in the school’s anthropology lab. It reads, “In memory of Fred Sandel, a native of Finland, aged 70, died Oct. 9, 1925.”

Another marker was documented in the book, as well — a long, thin board that is thought to mark a mass grave of Chinese men. And one newer grave, for Peter Bates Walker, born May 10, 1935, died Oct. 31, 1982, who lived next to the cemetery, also is at the site.

Other than Bates being noted as “Good father, husband, friend,” there is no further information about those buried beneath the markers. No epitaphs to hint at who they were, what happened to them, or why four Scandinavians and an undetermined number of Chinese men were living, much less buried, in Kasilof around the turn of the century.

The Totem Tracers don’t know much for sure, but they’d like to find out. First, though, this summer, they’d like to preserve the history, and then in the winter start working on the mystery.

“It’s history and I have a fascination for cemeteries, genealogy. I just want to know who these people were,” Miller said.

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Kayakers flip, truck slips into Kasilof river

Photo courtesy of Paul Gauthier. A pickup truck slid into the Kasilof River and became lodged at the Sterling Highway Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

Photos courtesy of Paul Gauthier. A pickup truck slid into the Kasilof River and became lodged at the Sterling Highway Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Trouble came as a pair Sunday afternoon on the Kasilof River. Two kayakers flipped their boats around 4 p.m., followed shortly thereafter by a truck going for a swim at the boat launch just upstream from the Sterling Highway bridge.

Joshua Thompson, an engineer with Central Emergency Services, said no one was hurt in either incident. CES launched its rescue boat and picked up a female kayaker from the sand bar on which she’d ended up, while a drift boat reportedly retrieved her male companion. Thompson said the CES crew checked the scene at the boat launch but found no one in the water, as the owner of the truck was able to rescue himself.

Paul Gauthier lives about a mile and a half upstream from the bridge. He and a friend were doing some house painting when they spotted something odd floating downstream.

“What I saw was some movement, just another boat floating down the river. But my friend said, ‘What is that? It looks like ice.’ And I saw an inflaitable raft rowing after this thing. I said, ‘It looks like a cooler.’ Then I looked at it and said, ‘Oh, nope, it’s a kayak,’” Gauthier said.

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Unique signage a ’foot — Driveway marker leaves big impact on K-beach drivers

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A newly erected, man-size Bigfoot cutout along Kalifornsky Beach Road between Kenai and Kasilof serves as a unique driveway marker and address sign for the Luecker-Borce family.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A newly erected, man-size Bigfoot cutout along Kalifornsky Beach Road between Kenai and Kasilof serves as a unique driveway marker and address sign for the Luecker-Borce family.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Tourists are often eager for a lucky glimpse of a bear, moose or caribou while driving around the Kenai Peninsula, and lately, between Kenai and Kasilof, the silhouette of an even more rarely seen species has drivers turning their heads.

Bigfoot is on the highway.

“Everyone else has a salmon or buoy or reflectors. I wanted something more interesting,” said Casey Luecker, who erected a man-size Sasquatch cutout along Kalifornsky Beach Road to serve as his driveway marker and address sign.

At first glance when driving by, the all-black shape could be mistaken for a black bear, but those familiar with the lore surrounding the enigmatic hominid would immediately identify Luecker’s work as the bipedal pose from the famous frame 352 of the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, which introduced Bigfoot to the world.

“It’s actually a five-eighths reproduction,” said Luecker, who made the silhouette out of plywood, using a jigsaw and reduced specifications. By some estimates, the creature is anywhere between 6 and 10 feet tall and weighs around 1,000 pounds. Exact dimensions haven’t been confirmed, of course, since Bigfoot is undeniably the grand champion of hide and seek.

Luecker said that he considers himself an amateur cryptozoologist — those who search for animals or creatures that appear in myths and legends, are considered extinct or whose existence is not yet proven.

While generally termed pseudoscience, the International Society for Cryptozoology proved its worth to naysayers in 1901 when member Henry Morton Stanley, while exploring the Congo for a whispered-about species, proved the existence of okapi — a small member of the giraffe family that has stripes like a zebra. The okapi is now intensely managed as an endangered species.

As for Bigfoot, Luecker said he leans toward believing it could exist, concealed deep in the woods, in numbers so low that the species remains elusive.

“I want to believe,” he said. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and always liked the Bigfoot lore. I know the likelihood of them existing may be low, but I think it’s important to believe, and fun, too, because it adds wonder to the world.”

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Slow but scenic — King fishing snags in Kasilof, doesn’t dampen experience

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Jeremy Kihlstadius, of Anchorage, attempts to land a king salmon while fishing the Kasilof River on Saturday. The fish broke off before he banked it, and not many others were caught that day.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Jeremy Kihlstadius, of Anchorage, attempts to land a king salmon while fishing the Kasilof River on Saturday. The fish broke off before he banked it, and not many others were caught that day.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Even an eagle, watching anglers with its wide golden eyes from the top of a spruce along the bank of the Kasilof River, seemed to be losing its patience Saturday. “Kikikikikiki,” it complained from its perch, perhaps tired of waiting for a salmon carcass to pick clean. Some years, the smooth, cobbled shoreline of Crooked Creek State Recreation Area is scattered with the pink-meated skeletons of filleted fish, the bright silver heads still attached.

Not this year.

“I’ve only seen one king caught all day,” said Lisa Long, of Anchorage, after hours of whipping at the turquoise water, hoping something would bite the fluorescent bead and hook at the end of her line.

Long and her partner, Darrell Suzuki, of Sterling, had come down midweek, and while they said that initially the salmon bite was bumping, it slowed as the weekend drew near.

“We saw a lot caught on Thursday, then not too many Friday,” she said.

Of the fish being caught, Long said they were primarily kings, both wild and hatchery-raised, the latter identified by their lack of an adipose fin — the tiny, fleshy fin located on the back between the dorsal fin and tail on wild fish.

According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations, Kasilof wild king salmon can only be retained on Saturdays, and must be released from Sunday through Friday.

“My other half (Suzuki) caught and banked two, a 20- and 30-pounder, during the week, but they were wild fish so he had to release them,” Long said.

While still a little early for sockeye salmon, Long said she had seen a few caught, but not more than a handful.

“I saw maybe two reds caught on Thursday and one on Friday and none so far today,” she said.

Despite the slow fishing, Long said that the Kasilof River still is an annual favorite of her summer fishing forays.

“I’ve come here every year since 2011 and my partner has come his whole life. We come for steelhead first, then come back for kings, and we’ll base out of here to fish Deep Creek and the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers,” she said.

These big three southern streams are a little more difficult to fish, though, according to Long.

“I like this spot better. It’s nice, calm water, with flat river beds so you don’t have to worry about footing, and we’re usually successful,” she said.

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