During the winter of 2018-2019, the NPS built a new permanent bridge and elevated boardwalks across the Brooks River in Katmai National Park. The new installation replaced an old, seasonally-used floating bridge that caused frequent and lengthy delays for visitors. The permanent bridge and boardwalk provides 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.
STG Incorporated won the contract to construct Phase I of the new bridge and platforms. This phase covers the boardwalk and bridge from Brooks Lodge to the original lower platform. Phase II is intended to extend the boardwalk from the lower platform to the bus parking area on the Valley Road, further reducing on-the-ground impacts to the wildlife on the south side of the river and improving visitor access. However, at this time, funding for Phase II has not been awarded and we do not anticipate constructing that portion of the boardwalk.
- How long and high is the new bridge?
The new bridge is approximately 1,200 ft (366 m) long. Its height varies with changes in ground topography, averaging 8-10 ft (2.5-3 m) above ground level.
- How much has the project cost?
Around $6 million to date
- How long did construction last?
Construction began mid-October 2018 and ended in late May 2019.
- Why did construction 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 required some activity in October and November. Resource management staff were present to monitor the work. Contractors were subject to the same regulations that apply to park visitors and were required to stop work when bears were within 50 yards.
- Will new webcams be installed on the new bridge? How will the view change (if at all)?
Yes, special pylons were put in place to mount new webcams. The new bridge offers opportunities for expanded views of the lower river area.
- How will the new bridge and lower river corridor be managed?
We anticipate a freer flow of people across the river and enhanced visitor experience. Rangers staff the bridge throughout the day to observe and manage use patterns. A project initiated last year is evaluating bear use of the lower river before and after bridge construction and examining the impacts of different management strategies.
- What is the impact on the bears 1) of the new bridge construction and 2) its impact post construction?
NPS biologists worked to minimize construction impacts on the bears. We expect that the presence of the bridge will benefit bears long term, allowing them access to the resources that they require and reducing the impact of human visitation.