The NPS is preparing to build a permanent bridge and elevated approach boardwalks across the Brooks River in Katmai National Park. The bridge and boardwalk will replace an existing floating bridge that is past its life expectancy and frequently requires repairs due to damage by bears, storms and river current. Bears feed, rest, play, and fight on or near the park’s current floating bridge and approach trail infrastructure. This activity can result in undesirable bear-human interactions and delays for visitors crossing the bridge. The permanent bridge and boardwalk will provide for more consistent public access and safety, more efficient transfer of lodge utilities, and most importantly improved wildlife movements and access in the lower Brooks River.
The NPS has awarded a contract for the permanent bridge project to STG Incorporated. Delivery of construction materials to Brooks Camp began in summer 2018 and will continue through the fall of 2018. Bridge and boardwalk construction will begin in October and November 2018 and is expected to be completed the following spring.
Current funding only allows for the construction of the planned Phase 1 construction. This phase covers the boardwalk and bridge from the lodge to the existing lower platform. Phase 2 was intended to extend the boardwalk from the lower platform to the bus parking area on the Valley Road. The intention of Phase 2 was to further reduce on the ground impacts to the wildlife on the south side of the river and improve access. However, at this time funding for Phase 2 has not been awarded and we do not anticipate constructing that portion of the boardwalk.
- When will construction begin? What will be the first steps?
Staging of materials has already begun in King Salmon and Naknek, AK. Those materials are currently being barged out to the Brooks Camp area. Construction activities will begin in the latter part of October. The initial construction will occur outside of the river corridor away from concentrated bear activity.
- Why does construction (at the lower platform) begin in October? This is a critical feeding time for bears.
In order to complete construction by the start of the 2019 season, the construction schedule requires some activity in October and November. The contractor is going to begin with trenching for underground electrical lines in October that will parallel an existing road to a point near the Lower River Platform. Thereafter, in November, the lower river platform will be deconstructed. Both of these are lower impact activities than bridge construction.
- What precautions are you taking to protect bears who need to access the lower river?
Resource management staff will be present to monitor activity in October and November while bears are still feeding on the Brooks River. Contractors are subject to the same regulations that apply to park visitors and will be required to stop work when bears are within 50 yards.
- How will construction activities be monitored by NPS staff?
NPS natural and cultural resource staff will be present when there is a potential risk to sensitive resources. Park staff will be closely monitoring bear activity and working with the contractors to reduce impacts to bears and ensure that contractors adhere to park regulations and contractual obligations. This includes stopping construction when bears and other sensitive wildlife are in the area.
- How long will construction last?
Construction will begin mid-October 2018 and the bridge is anticipated to open at the end of May. Equipment is expected to be moved away from Brooks Camp during the summer of 2019.
- Will the cams be shut off?
The lower platform camera will be shut off prior to the dismantling of the Lower Platform. This work is estimated to begin in mid October. The Falls cameras and Dumpling Mountain camera will be shut off in late October, or earlier dependent on weather conditions.
- Will new cams be installed on the new bridge next year? How will the view change (if at all)?
New cameras will be installed on the bridge in early summer of 2019. The National Park Service and explore.org are planning where the new cameras will be positioned. The new bridge offers opportunities for expanded views of the lower river area.
- How will the new bridge and lower river corridor be managed?
An NPS presence will be maintained on the bridge. We anticipate a more free flow of people across the river and enhanced visitor experience. NPS personnel will be monitoring the bridge use and will be adjusting bridge management as needed over time. A project was initiated this year to evaluate bear use of the lower river before and after bridge construction and examine the impacts of different management strategies.
- Can the webcam community see periodic photo or video updates of construction progress?
Absolutely. The park plans to share photos periodically during the winter and spring. There is a photo album just below.
- Are there photos of the new bridge plans?
Yes. A diagram of the new bridge is included at the bottom of this page.
- What will be the impact on the bears 1) of the new bridge construction and 2) its impact post construction?
NPS biologists will work to minimize construction impacts on the bears though it may not be possible to completely eliminate impacts altogether. It is the expectation that the presence of the bridge will benefit the bears long term, allowing them access to the resources that they require and reducing the impact of human visitation.