Isolated Paradise:
An Administrative History of the Katmai and Aniakchak National Park Units
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Chapter 4:
Katmai Management, 1950-1969

NPS On-Site Operations Begin

When William Nancarrow travelled from his posting at Mount McKinley National Park to Katmai National Monument in June of 1950, he knew that he was breaking new ground in his agency's commitment to the long-neglected monument. He also knew that the agency could spend little money at Katmai; a few thousand dollars was the best that an already stretched budget would allow. He fully recognized that the primary purpose for his new assignment was to correct the impression that the NPS had no interest in the area. The agency had to impose at least a token presence in order to quash an increasing chorus, voiced particularly by local residents, that the monument be abolished.

The Service's commitment to the monument that summer, as it turned out, was even more tentative than had originally been planned. Mount McKinley Superintendent Grant Pearson had hoped that Ranger Nancarrow would leave for Katmai in mid-June and return to the park on September 15. Budget considerations, however, forced him to delay his trip until late June and return to the park in late August. A total of $2042 was authorized that summer for management and protection activities in the Katmai area. [1]

Nancarrow, who was joined by his wife in mid-July, spent the summer constructing a camp and establishing the authority of the NPS with Northern Consolidated Airlines personnel. The concessioner were cordial with him, and rented him a 9' x 9' tent to help him get established. He considered staying there all summer, but both Pearson and regional office officials thought it more appropriate that he establish his own facilities. [2]

Nancarrow established his camp about half a mile north of the new NCA tent complex, just inland from Naknek Lake and in the same location as the present Brooks River campground. He built a two-room tent frame that year, a cache and a well. [3]

His other major duty was to inform NCA guests and other visitors--principally Air Force personnel--about NPS regulations, particularly as they pertained to fishing along the Brooks River. Because his only transportation was a 14-foot metal boat, his travel was limited to short excursions to the Bay of Islands and the Savonoski River mouth. In addition, the concessioner flew him on an inspection trip to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, then on to Battle Camp (outside of the monument) and Coville Camp. [4]

Early Staffing

The pattern which Nancarrow established proved to be a harbinger of Katmai management patterns. From 1950 to 1954, the only NPS presence in the monument was a single Mount McKinley-based ranger during the summer season. For a short time during the spring of 1951, there was some question as to whether NCA (which had lost money on its 1950 camp operations) would reopen its camps that summer. The NPS, however, was willing to send a ranger even if the camps did not open. [5]

On June 1, 1951, Nancarrow returned to Katmai, but he was replaced on July 11 by Morton S. "Woody" Wood. A relatively new ranger on the Mount McKinley staff, Wood was soon joined by his wife Ginny. His first task was to enforce fishing regulations; in addition, he was asked to explore as much of the park as possible and to take photographs of the flora, fauna and scenery. [6]

During the next few years, the Katmai assignment was filled by a broad spectrum of rangers (see Appendix B). Most had previously served at Mount McKinley, but a few were hired specifically for the Katmai assignment. [7] During the six year period beginning in 1952, five different rangers worked at Katmai. They included George B. Chaffee (1952), George L. Peters (1953), Richard Ward (1954-55), Richard Riegelhuth (1956), and Warren Steenburgh (1957).

Most spent the summer enforcing fishing regulations or assisted NPS officials from McKinley Park or San Francisco regarding proposed construction projects or planning efforts. Wood, for instance, laid out an informal trail up the west side of Ukak River; Chaffee was asked to protect the monument's fishery and make a series of wildlife observations, while Ward spent some of the summer of 1955 evaluating various sites for a potential airstrip. [8]

In retrospect, the early rangers had to be an enterprising lot, because the budget allotted to them remained meager. In 1950, for instance, the Katmai budget and staff time had been originally designated for Mount McKinley. Soon afterwards it gained a separate line item. As late as the 1954, however, the Katmai budget remained below $3,000, and by 1958 it still remained under $6,500 (see Appendix C). The NPS pushed for larger budgets, but the requests fell victim to the budgetary process. [9]

Any attempts to provide more than a token budget faced a daunting set of hurdles. The problem was a twofold one; NPS appropriations had always been small at all but the system's "crown jewels," and it was difficult for Alaska park units, where visitation was light, to compete against parks located along the major tourist corridors. In 1945, to make up for the accumulated neglect, the NPS had lobbied Congress for an Alaskan park program, and by 1949 momentum for such a bill had been sufficiently strong that the bill had passed the House of Representatives. But the Senate killed it, and the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 wiped out any progress which had been made. [10]

In the early 1950s the NPS continued to make proposals for construction projects in Alaskan parks. Few of those proposals, however, were accepted. The agency, by now gun-shy, refrained from making specific recommendations for Katmai projects; this was probably because Governor Gruening and Delegate Bartlett felt that Mount McKinley and Glacier Bay had a higher near-term tourist development potential. [11]

The Alaska Recreation Survey

As noted in Chapter 3, park and regional NPS officials had grumbled for many years at the lack of attention paid to the Alaskan national park units. The primary reason for their neglect was their lack of visitation. The argument was a circular one; without facilities and access, prospects for increased visitation would continue to be dim, and few were willing to visit an unimproved park. Try as it may, the NPS was unsuccessful in gaining funds for new park facilities through the normal budgetary process. In order to spotlight the needs in the system, therefore, the NPS decided to undertake a program--the Alaska Recreation Survey (ARS)--which would spotlight the agency's economic role in the territory.

This was by no means a departure from its previous policies. Since its earliest days, Service programs had been successful because they had encouraged travel. As if to underscore that connection, the U.S. Travel Bureau (an agency whose goal it was to publicize travel opportunities) had been part of the NPS both in the late 1930s and the late 1940s. In further pursuit of those goals, the agency undertook a series of studies, both before and after World War II, which assessed the recreational resources of many of the states and territories. [12] These studies were based on provisions in the Park, Parkway and Recreation Act of 1936. The Alaska Recreation Survey, announced by the Director in January 1950 (and funded out of the Washington office) was therefore consistent with previous projects. The Survey was to continue for the next four years. The recreation survey, as it pertained to Katmai, was completed by the summer of 1952. The recreation survey was followed by the so-called Katmai Project, which took place in 1953 and 1954. The Katmai Project, which consisted of a series of scientific studies, was an adjunct of the ARS and was designed to determine the value of the monument's resources. [13]

The Alaska Recreation Survey was aimed not at just the parks, but at the whole territory. Its purpose was to develop long range plans with three specific goals:

1) The protection of Alaska's scenic, scientific, historic, and other recreational resources,

2) The development of park and recreational facilities for the people of Alaska, and

3) The development of tourist facilities in Alaska.

The pursuit of those goals would result in the publication of a two-part, four-volume study on the economic impacts of Alaska tourism development. Several other studies specific to existing or proposed park areas would also be produced. [14]

Chosen to head the effort was George L. Collins, who was head of the State and Territorial Division at the regional office in San Francisco. [15] Collins headed one of two teams which headed up to Alaska during the summer of 1950; remote Katmai was a focus of his work. He first visited the monument in late June, when he accompanied Willie Nancarrow to newly-established Brooks Camp. He returned in mid-July, flying with the ranger out to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. [16] Sometimes alone, sometimes with colleagues Adolph Murie and Lowell Sumner, he returned to Katmai each of the two following summers. [17]

Collins did not wait long to suggest ways in which the National Park Service might develop the newly-staffed monument. In memos sent to the regional director after his 1950 trips, he urged that a central base of operations be established at the mouth of what he called "O Creek," one of several creeks that drained into the south shore of Iliuk Arm. He chose the creek because of "its possibility for reaching the Valley of Smokes [sic] via a short section of road." He also hoped to have outlying ranger stations, along with museums and an interpretive program. In addition, he argued that full-time personnel should be stationed at the monument, that a winter base of operations be established at Naknek Air Base (because the base was "ideally located for all servicing purposes"), and that the road from Naknek to the present-day Lake Camp area be upgraded to all-weather use. [18]

In July 1952, Collins submitted his final recommendations on Katmai development. Some of his suggestions had changed during the past two years. He still envisioned that O Creek would be the main tourist center and that Lake Camp would play a prominent role, but regarding a permanent headquarters, he abandoned Naknek in favor of a location "somewhere in the vicinity of King Salmon"--either at King Salmon itself, or better yet at the western end of Naknek Lake. He eventually hoped to establish 12 ranger stations, seven to be located west of the Aleutian Range and five along the Shelikof Strait coastline. Most of these stations were to be "of the outpost type" and inexpensively built; the only exceptions would be at O Creek and "perhaps at one of the places on the coast."

Collins was no idle dreamer. He recognized that "our first job is protection and exploration, with planning and development coming right along on our heels." He advocated modest developments at first: rustic cabins and a few trails. Eventually, however, he envisioned that Katmai would become a place where "a typical couple" would

arrive at King Salmon, be transferred to a car or bus and transported to the docks on Naknek Lake where they will be made welcome to Katmai by a ranger, put on a boat or plane, and sent up to O Creek.

From the O Creek camp a trip by one-way road (with turn-outs) could be made up the creek valley, climbing the side of Mount Katolinat, to the divide overlooking the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where a dramatic view of the vast volcanic center of the monument is possible.

On clear days flights from O Creek could be made over the volcanic center, and over the coastal portion of the monument, with landings at Geographic Harbor and Kukak Bay. Whether or not any public service facilities will be warranted on the coast side of the area is a question which can be answered with time and experience.

Another activity for the visitor basing at O Creek will be a boat trip on the principal lakes and rivers of the area. Starting at Coville Camp, say, by river boat..., the trip would be made down Grosvenor Lake, the Savonoski River, Iliuk Arm, and back to O Creek. With a good portage across the two mile neck between the Bay of Islands and Grosvenor Lake..., a party could come in from O Creek, or the headquarters docks [at the west end of Naknek Lake], portage across, and take off by boat on the lake and river trip clear around for over 100 miles. [19]

In order to implement his development plan, Collins felt that eight permanent employees would be needed. Most critical was a chief ranger, who would serve as an acting superintendent. Next in importance was an airplane pilot, followed by a co-pilot/district ranger, a chief clerk, a naturalist, a construction and maintenance foreman, and a ranger. A superintendent was considered the least important of the permanent positions. [20]

Lawrence Merriam, the regional director, then recommended a "Katmai National Monument Program" to Conrad Wirth, NPS Director. Merriam was cautious in his proposals, and suggested (as had Collins) that a trail to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes "would be the most desirable means of access, at least until such time as visitation increases to a point where motor transportation is necessary to handle the larger crowds." He favored the "basic outline" of Collins's program, but recommended that it be implemented and budgeted one stage at a time. [21]

Despite the agency's planning effort, Congress appeared no more disposed to adopt a development plan for Katmai than they had before the Alaska Recreation Survey commenced. Perhaps they balked at the high public expenditures entailed, or perhaps they saw that Katmai, still well away from the usual tourist routes, had little immediate potential for general visitor development. For the time being, the plans were shelved. But the concepts contained within the plans proved sound. Perhaps coincidentally, many of the plans suggested by Collins were eventually adopted by either the concessioner or the NPS. And some of the plans that were not adopted, such as a visitor center located on Naknek Lake but away from Brooks Camp, reappeared in future efforts to manage Katmai development.

Proposed Boundary Changes, 1951-1955

As noted in Chapter 3, the NPS had been under near-constant pressure in the late 1940s to justify its retention of Katmai National Monument. This pressure continued after Northern Consolidated Airlines opened its concessions camps in 1950. Based upon pressure applied by local residents, as well as a general desire to show some evidence of economic return from the monument, Governor Ernest Gruening and Delegate E. L. Bartlett implored the agency to either develop Katmai or return at least part of the monument to the public domain. Gruening, though frustrated at the situation, seemed willing to recognize the agency's lack of leverage; Bartlett, however, paid little heed to the explanations proffered by NPS officials and seemed primarily concerned with results. [22]

The agency, in its communications to outside parties, was able to discourage those who sought to unravel NPS hegemony over Katmai. Within the organization, however, pragmatists recognized that the monument might have to be reduced in size to mollify those who advocated resource development. In 1947, for example, Alfred C. Kuehl and Leo Diederich flew over the monument, and noted that "a large area along the west boundary drained by Takayofo and Contact creeks might be unnecessary for monument purposes and that its elimination would result in an easily defined boundary based on ridges." Kuehl estimated that on that basis, the monument's size could be reduced by one-quarter. And in 1950, George Collins noted that "I can find no excuse for including any more than Dr. Griggs [in 1917-18] wanted to identify and protect under national monument status." [23] Others in the NPS, however, hoped to use that process to gain jurisdiction over new lands. What resulted from the process was a series of proposed boundary changes, none of which got beyond the proposal stage.

An NPS-sponsored study of changes in the Katmai boundary began in 1951, when the topic became included in the Alaska Recreation Survey. Outside interests--commercial pumice developers and Delegate E. L. Bartlett--pushed for the study. Even within the NPS, however, opinion makers recognized that the existing boundaries were arbitrary and difficult to administer. Lowell Sumner, an NPS biologist, was placed in charge of the boundary revision study. [24]

In late June 1952 a phalanx of NPS officials, including both NPS Director Conrad Wirth and Regional Director Lawrence Merriam, made an aerial reconnaissance of Katmai in hopes of resolving the boundary situation. Above all, they were looking for "clearly defined boundaries based on prominent natural features." Within those boundaries, they hoped to include lands "essential for proper public use and enjoyment of the area, for protection of the significant scientific, scenic, and historic features, and for the protection of the Alaskan brown bear, moose, and other resident wildlife." Lands not needed for those purposes were to be excluded. [25]

Based on those criteria, Wirth wasted little time in his boundary recommendations (see Map 5). Along the southwestern border, just inland from Cape Kubugakli, he suggested that the entire river system draining into Kashvik Bay should be within the monument; the adjacent Kejulik River system, however, should be entirely excluded. He left the western boundary largely intact, but he felt that the western end of Naknek Lake should be included within the monument. Along the northern boundary he extended Katmai to include all of the American Creek and Douglas River drainages, but he excluded almost all of the Kamishak River drainage, a portion of which was included within the existing monument. Significantly, Wirth did not attempt to exclude sites of clam or pumice extraction from the monument. [26]

Katmia NP expanded boundaries map
Map 5. Proposals for modification of 1931 boundaries by the Alaska Recreation Survey, 1952-1953. In June 1952, NPS Director Conrad Wirth made an aerial tour of the monument and suggested new boundaries (dotted line) that would conform more closely to aquatic and topographic features. Planner Lowell Sumner slightly modified Wirth's suggestions (dashed lines), and in September 1952, the Region Four office approved Sumner's line. In December 1953, NPS biologist Victor Cahalane suggested expanding Sumner's line with acreage along the proposed northern boundary (alternating dots and dashes). None of the proposals were implemented. Source: Kauffman, Katmai National Monument, Alaska, 29a; base map from Alaska Recreation Survey, November 1951. (click image for an enlargement in a new window)

During the next month ground and air surveys continued over the monument, and by fall the regional office had made minor modifications to Wirth's original proposal. The revised boundary changed Wirth's recommendations by excluding the area surrounding Idavain Lake and Sugarloaf Mountain and by including slightly more of the Kamishak drainage. The regional office, in sum, recommended that three areas, totalling 105,600 acres, be eliminated from the monument, and that seven areas, totalling 472,960 acres, be added to it. All in all, the NPS proposed that 367,360 acres be added, a 13.6 per cent increase to the existing 2,697,590-acre monument. [27]

The agency may have felt defensive that it was responding to perceived development pressures with a document that increased the monument's boundaries. In a section entitled "Too Big?" Sumner answered potential critics by noting:

It is a stated objection of the National Park Service to provide a year-round habitat sufficient for the perpetuation of adequate samples of all wildlife species native to the respective areas. Yet less than half a dozen areas in the entire system appear to fulfill this requirement. And of these, only Katmai appears to contain all its native species in approximately their original numbers. [Sumner's emphasis.]

The boundaries proposed here would provide a reasonable guarantee that ... Katmai's outstanding wildlife resources and magnificent wilderness could be efficiently administered and adequately protected while being made available for public use.

If the objectives of the 1931 proclamation are a guiding consideration, the answer must from a biological standpoint be: "No. The area is the minimum necessary to maintain itself indefinitely as a self-sustaining sanctuary for the larger and rarer wildlife forms...." If the purpose of the monument is to preserve an adequate sample of the strikingly beautiful Alaska Peninsula wilderness, the answer must again be: "No. It is not too big. It is one of the very few areas dedicated to wilderness preservation that is big enough to withstand the impact of drastic changes outside its boundaries." [28]

Wirth took the revised boundary proposal before the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments on October 17, 1952; the Board responded by passing a motion approving the principle of establishing topographically-based monument boundaries. Sumner's report was soon approved by the regional and national directors. Wirth had hoped to enact the boundary changes into law by drafting a proclamation for the president to sign. But no such proclamation was known to be drafted, and the suggested boundary changes were later modified by others in the agency. Notably, however, the NPS hierarchy firmly defended the monument, and in a new twist, the agency went on record as embracing Katmai not just for its biological and geological resources, but for its wilderness resource as well. [29]

In the summer of 1953 Victor Cahalane, Chief of the agency's Biology Branch, made a helicopter investigation of Katmai's northern boundary as part of a general biological survey. That December, he penned a memo to the Chief of Recreation planning; in it, he suggested modifications to Sumner's proposed boundaries, "mostly because I was able to cover the region more extensively." His suggestions were primarily based on wildlife considerations.

Cahalane had mixed feelings about the need for adding the western end of Naknek Lake into the monument. He noted that "some other areas are more vital to properly rounding out the Monument." He was far more enthusiastic about Kulik Lake, "one of the most beautiful bodies of water I have seen." Openly worried that the lake would become "a popular site for week end or cottage resort development," he urged that the lake and adjacent mountain slopes be included in the monument. Regarding the Kamishak River valley, he hoped to include some or all of it, having found it "distinctly productive in terms of animal life." Collins, however, listened to local Department of Agriculture officials who told him of the valley's farming possibilities. He therefore carefully avoided including prime agricultural areas within the revised boundaries. [30]

Cahalane's recommendations, worthy as they may have been, ran headlong into a December 1953 petition from 66 Naknek citizens who hoped to reduce the monument's boundaries "by opening the areas surrounding the Naknek Lake Group to about eight miles back from the lake shores of this group in all directions." A Fish and Wildlife Service official, at an August 1953 hearing, was receptive to local complaints that beavers were obstructing many of the salmon-spawning creeks at the west end of the monument. Local residents, who had just endured another poor salmon-fishing season, hoped to push back the boundaries so that they might trap, hunt, and go ice fishing. [31]

In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay, Delegate E. L. Bartlett expressed his support for the petition signers, and again chided the Interior Department because it "has resisted uniformly and successfully any attempt to restore to the public domain any of the area within the boundary, [but] it has never done anything at all--that statement is almost literally true--to open the monument to public use." [32]

Bartlett also insisted that a Congressional hearing be held on the subject. Bartlett's hearing took place in Washington D.C., and an NPS representative was the only witness to testify. No hearing was held in Alaska. As a result of that hearing, Bartlett chose not to submit legislation that year aimed at reducing the monument's boundaries. [33]

McKay's response to the problem was to arrange for two parties of opposite philosophical stripes, NPS Director Wirth and Governor Frank Heintzleman, to try and reconcile the situation. That meeting took place on February 15, 1954. Heintzleman, a former Forest Service official, was no great friend of the NPS; as recently as October 1953, he had announced that "I do not believe it is desirable to withdraw any more areas at this time as national park or wilderness tracts." At the meeting the NPS agreed that it would not insist on adding the entire west end of Naknek Lake to the monument, and that it "would give further consideration to other possible boundary adjustments." But the agency insisted on keeping the areas surrounding Brooks Camp, because "they are important wildlife areas, especially for beaver, moose, and waterfowl." The governor, having never visited the monument, was noncommittal, and in early March Wirth wrote that no boundary recommendations would be forthcoming until after the agency had completed its studies at the monument that summer. [34]

By the end of April the NPS had assembled the results of the previous summer's work. A 140-page study, called the Katmai Project: Interim Report, summarized the existing base of knowledge about the monument's geology, topography, biology, archeology, and volcanology. The assembled data, of course, provided ammunition for defending the park from those who would return it to the public domain. The report showed that certain areas in the monument were indeed valuable from a scientific viewpoint. Some areas, inevitably, were shown to be more valuable than others. [35]

Governor Heintzleman was impressed with the first-year study results. As he admitted in a letter to NPS Director Conrad Wirth, the report convinced him that parks were not "merely places where people can be assured of getting an outstanding but relatively inexpensive vacation." They could also be valuable as undisturbed natural laboratories. [36] Bartlett or Heintzleman, however, still hoped to open up portions of the monument. And Orme Lewis, an Assistant Secretary of the Interior, agreed that "some [boundary] revision in the vicinity of Naknek Lake and the northwest corner of the Monument would be reasonable and justifiable." [37]

In order to fully evaluate the situation, however, the NPS had to await the completion of the scientific studies begun the previous year. In the summer of 1954, the scientists from a number of federal agencies--Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Public Health Service--along with personnel from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Alaska took part. The various military branches played a major supporting role. [38] Heintzleman, as governor, helped arrange transportation for the various scientists involved. Bob Bartlett, the territorial delegate, finally visited the monument that summer and was able to see Katmai's scenery and resources for himself. [39]

In January 1955, Bartlett again inquired about the progress of the NPS studies. In response, Orme Lewis told him that the NPS had completed its studies and was "now considering the advisability of recommending boundary modifications to the Department." Lewis was vague in his response and left room open for negotiation. Regarding the Brooks River, however, the NPS would not budge. "Wirth will recommend that this area be retained in the monument," Lewis wrote. "Brooks Lake and the Brooks River region have the best potential public use areas in the monument and also has great scenery, excellent fishing and wildlife habitat." [40]

That communication apparently ended the matter for the next few years. Good fishing in Bristol Bay may have reduced the need for Naknek residents to trap near the monument. Others who had militated for opening up the monument, such as the clam digging and pumice extraction industries, had found a way to carry on their operations via NPS permits. And in June 1956, the monument received widespread publicity when both the fishing camps and the volcanic area were featured in The National Geographic Magazine. [41] Bartlett, evidently satisfied that NPS officials were amenable to some degree of economic development, let the matter rest during the remainder of his tenure as territorial delegate.

Soon after Alaska became a state, however, Bartlett--now a senator--again raised the question of whether Katmai's boundaries should not be reduced. On February 16, 1959, he told Fred Seaton, the Secretary of Interior, that "the time has come for a reexamination of Katmai National Monument." Bartlett was frustrated that the NPS had taken no recent actions to reduce the size of the monument. He argued that the monument had "areas less spectacular scenically, perhaps, but worthy of continued inclusion for recreational uses," and that there was "acreage that has no proper place within the Monument." [42]

Many Alaskans reacted to Bartlett's announcement. Both the Daily Alaska Empire (in Juneau) and the Anchorage Daily Times gave the idea a prominent mention; the Times, calling the monument a "huge empty area," hailed the proposal as a good idea. [43] One person who was in fervent agreement was John H. Lee, the same man who had been living in Cold Bay (Puale Bay) when Mt. Katmai erupted in 1912. The 91-year-old Lee, who was living at the Pioneers Home in Sitka, urged Senator Bartlett that the size of the monument be reduced, and also said that roads should be built on the rights-of-way of several former trails. [44] But the NPS gave no indication that it was willing to consider a boundary reduction, and as Bartlett admitted to a friend in the mining industry, "In all candor, I must say there isn't a chance whatsoever for this." For that reason, he did not submit a bill with that purpose. [45]

In 1961, Alaska's legislators briefly considered sponsoring a bill which would have allowed hunting in the monument. That September, Sen. Wallace Bennett of Utah introduced S. 2545, which would have authorized regulated hunting in certain NPS areas. The chairman of the Alaska Board of Fish and Game urged Rep. Ralph Rivers to add the Katmai and Glacier Bay areas to the bill in order to overturn the agency's "conservative, out-dated and wasteful philosophy" on hunting. Rivers did not comply with the board's request, however, and the bill died quietly. [46]

Questions About Access: Brooks Camp Airstrip Issues, 1954-1956

Access has been a longstanding problem at Katmai. That the monument has traditionally been located far from the major travel routes has been a sufficient problem by itself; compounding the situation, however, has been the problem of how visitors could most efficiently move within the monument. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the original raison d'être for the monument, was remote from both population centers and transportation facilities, and the only practical way in which visitors could visit the monument's lake country was on Naknek- or King Salmon-based float planes. There was, quite simply, no central resource which all Katmai visitors demanded to see, and planners could identify no optimal way in which to organize a transportation system. Northern Consolidated, which had opened up its fishing camps in 1950, established a transportation system based on land-based aircraft travelling from Anchorage to King Salmon, after which float planes flew to Brooks Camp, Coville Camp (Grosvenor Camp), and other sites within the lake system. Both the NPS and the concessioner, however, recognized that the access system was imperfect. Both made repeated attempts, over the years, to improve the monument's transportation system.

The first person who tried to design a Katmai transportation system was George Collins, the NPS planner. Collins, as noted above, envisioned that an optimal system would include road transportation from King Salmon to proposed docks on Naknek Lake. From that point he suggested that either boats or planes would take visitors to O Creek, the site of the proposed visitor center. He suggested a road into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, scenic flights over the remote eastern portions of the monument, and a boat trip which might connect O Creek with other points on Naknek and Grosvenor lakes. The notion that a boat trip would be able to travel the Savonoski Loop, and that such a trip would ever be considered a commercial success, seems fanciful today. Collins, however, was asked to look at Katmai's long-term development prospects.

Northern Consolidated Airlines, by contrast, was more concerned with practical ways in which to develop tourism possibilities. Based as they were at Brooks Camp, the monument concessioner felt that the most practical way to attract visitors was to build an airstrip near the camp. NCA officials wanted an airstrip built so that Anchorage-based planes would have access to the camp as well as King Salmon-based float planes. An airstrip would also allow landings on days when winds made it difficult if not impossible to land float planes on Naknek and Brooks lakes.

Ray Petersen, head of the Katmai concession, first approached the NPS on the subject in the spring of 1954. He was, at that time, in the last year of his five-year concession permit. In return for a seven-year contract, he offered to construct permanent improvements--a lodge and cabins--at its Brooks River facility. After the contract had been prepared, however, Petersen backtracked and conditioned the acceptance of his building plans on the construction of an airstrip in the vicinity. He hinted, moreover, that he might abandon the concession if no airstrip was built. [47]

Regional personnel were in favor of an airstrip, and an NPS party had already visited the site and had determined that its physical characteristics were appropriate for an airstrip. But when Director Wirth was contacted about the idea, his response was that "if airstrip is to be built in Katmai, I am not sure Brooks Lake is proper location. Further study needed before answer can be given." [48] The Director, in fact, questioned the advisability of developing Brooks Camp into a major concessions area because fishing (the only major camp activity) was incidental to the values of the monument. He felt that the Savonoski area, at the east end of Iliuk Arm, should be studied as an alternative concession area. [49]

Controversy over the airstrip continued for another year. In response to the Director's call for a study, the superintendent and regional director visited Brooks Camp in June 1955. They agreed that planes were better suited to Katmai than boats, and that wheel planes were more acceptable for moving large numbers of visitors. They henceforth identified two sites south of the Brooks River that would be acceptable for an airstrip. [50] Cost estimates were obtained for each of the two airstrips, a connecting road, and a bridge across Brooks River. [51] In January 1956, the results were sent on to Director Wirth. Meanwhile, the concessioner refused to promise a building program. As a result, the three-year contract which was signed in February 1956 promised neither an NPS-sponsored airstrip nor a concession-sponsored building program. [52]

NCA officials were frustrated, of course, that the NPS had not approved the airstrip. But Brooks Camp was not the only location where they had hoped to construct an airstrip. In 1954, the same year it had moved to establish a Brooks Camp airstrip, it also planned to create an airstrip near its Kulik Camp facility. Here, outside the monument, the company encountered few if any bureaucratic stumbling blocks. That summer, employees began to blade off a 1500-foot runway on Bureau of Land Management land just south of Kulik Lodge, and by the following year, the strip had been extended to 2000 feet. By August 1956, workers had completed "a usable road satisfactory for the operation of a Willys Jeep" between the landing strip and Kulik Camp. To legalize its improvements, company officials in May 1955 applied to patent an 80-acre parcel which included and surrounded the airfield. NCA obtained a patent for the parcel on November 2, 1960. [53]

The Mission 66 Program

Just a year after the boundary controversy abated, the NPS launched a program which promised the construction of long-awaited facilities. The program, Mission 66, was a long-range effort aimed at NPS units throughout the country. It was intended to be complete in time for the agency's 50th anniversary in 1966. Director Conrad Wirth conceived the program in 1955. The following January, he garnered the enthusiastic approval of both President Eisenhower and Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay. He announced the program to the public on February 8. [54] The program was the agency's response to the huge increase in postwar tourism: visitation to the parks had more than tripled between 1940 and 1954. Most of the money spent on the Mission 66 program, which eventually totalled over $1 billion, went to park construction projects, but staffing, maintenance and protection work was also included. Projects were to be funded through the usual Interior Department appropriations process. [55]

Soon after the program commenced on a national level, an Interior Department official travelled to Ketchikan and announced how the program was to be implemented in Alaska. The initial budget, which had been recommended by Alaska's two park superintendents, allotted $9.25 million for Alaskan projects. The majority of the funding--$6.9 million--was intended for Mount McKinley, the only national park in the territory. Glacier Bay, Sitka, and Katmai national monuments divvied up the remainder. [56]

At Katmai, the NPS initially contemplated expenditures of "about $680,000 for new buildings and utilities and about $80,000 for improved park roads and trails." Within that budget, the agency hoped to construct the following:

* a visitor center at Valley Junction (in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes) to contain interpretive facilities, a ranger station, and a small (5 unit) lodge,

* additional ranger stations to be located at Savonoski, Kukak Bay and the Bay of Islands,

* small campgrounds to be located at Brooks River, Savonoski, Valley Junction, and on Knife Creek in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes,

* nature trails to be located at Valley Junction and Old Savonoski,

* limited road projects--"these will be principally jeep routes"--from Ukak to Valley Junction (flights would take passengers to the mouth of the Ukak River) and from King Salmon to Lake Camp,

* docks, to be constructed along with some boathouse units,

* a headquarters area at King Salmon, where the necessary administrative, utility, and residential buildings would be located, and

* utilities, including a radio communication system, necessary to serve the new facilities.

A high priority in the program was the hiring of a permanent staff to protect, interpret, and maintain the area. In order to pay for the new personnel, the plan called for the monument's management and protection (M&P) budget to double from $5,000 in FY 1956 to $10,000 a year later; by FY 1959, it proposed an M&P budget of $53,000. In order to pay for the numerous new improvements, the plan called for a gradual increase in the maintenance and rehabilitation budget from zero (in FY 1957) to $32,000 in FY 1966. Grosvenor Camp, the small concessioner camp located between Coville and Grosvenor lakes, was scheduled to be abolished. [57]

The following May, the NPS laid out a modified, more capital-intensive program for the monument, which had been approved by the agency's directorate in Washington. A report, entitled Mission 66 for Katmai National Monument, described not only proposed facilities but the underlying philosophy behind visitor development. [58] The NPS identified wilderness as a major element of Katmai's attraction; therefore, it proposed a "restrained program" of Katmai development. According to the report, the agency felt there was

no need for a large construction program to make this wildland area available to the people. A few trails, much mileage of which would be simply in the form of markers, several campgrounds with some shelters, a few boat landings, and a few miles of "jeep" type road, some added concessioner facilities, and Katmai should be able to prove itself hospitable to visitors of the next decade. [59]

NPS planners recognized that because the monument was remote and seldom visited (see Appendix D), its biggest problem was one of neglect. Resources were not being protected, and little visitor development was taking place. The solution, therefore, lay in new visitor facilities, and in a better circulatory system: boats, boat landings, trails, and "jeep" roads. [60]

The Mission 66 program called for an expenditure of $1,151,200 over the nine-year life of the program. The funds were to be used for the following purposes:

1) $404,700 was to be allotted for an airstrip, roads and trails. Central to this category was the construction of an airstrip for wheel planes, to be provided near Brooks Camp. Twenty-five miles of trails were also planned, most of which would be located in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. And two jeep roads were planned: a ten-mile jeep road from Naknek Lake to the Valley, following the Ukak River valley, and a two-mile road which would connect Brooks Camp to the proposed airstrip.

2) $40,000 was to be allotted for the development of campgrounds, shelters, docks and utilities. Four campgrounds were contemplated: one at Brooks Camp, a second at the Naknek Lake end of the jeep trail, a third near Valley Junction (at the end of the jeep road), and a fourth along Knife Creek, at the upper end of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Docks were planned at Lake Grosvenor, Kukak Bay, and King Salmon.

3) $252,000 was to be allotted for NPS facilities in the monument. Katmai's visitor center was to be constructed at Valley Junction, at the end of the proposed 10-mile jeep road, and would include interpretive displays on volcanism and area ecology. An information and summer headquarters was planned for Brooks Camp, along with five units of summer housing for monument employees. Ranger stations were planned for the Bay of Islands, Old Savonoski, and Kukak Bay, and five relief cabins for patrol rangers were also contemplated.

4) $454,500 was to be allotted for NPS facilities in King Salmon. Proposed facilities included an administration building, for office and storage space; five housing units; a utility building with a shop and garage space; a boathouse; and several fuel storage tanks. [61]

Wirth felt that the momentum generated by the Mission 66 program was the best way to ensure the construction of facilities as laid out in the Katmai and other park plans. However, he had no illusions that all of the projected facilities would be built. He felt that the plans should be "accepted as a measure of development requirements and a guide for programming and planning." Inclusion of facilities in the plan, however, did not signify their final budgetary approval. [62]

Master Planning Efforts, 1957-1960

Shortly after the issuance of the Mission 66 prospectus, the ideas it contained served as a foundation of the monument's master planning process. By this time, Katmai's master plan was 15 years old; it had been obsolete since 1950, when development had commenced.

The initial portion of the process was the Master Plan Development Outline, most of which was completed in November 1957. The outline was intended to be brief; it consisted of introductory material, several operations sections and several development sections.

The outline was a logical and more specific extension of the Mission 66 plan. It promised many alterations of the status quo. Regarding Grosvenor Camp, the revised plan no longer called for its abolition; officials, however, cautioned that "the present narrow spit on which the camp is located is crowded with temporary structures which should be removed when expansion transpires in the future." It also planned the establishment of a Ukak Ranger Station and docks, to be located "not far from the delta of the Ukak and Savonoski Rivers;" a jeep road up the river valley, and a Valley Junction Visitor Center "somewhere in the vicinity of the Junction of the Lethe and Ukak Rivers." Additional ranger stations and floating docks were planned at the Bay of Islands and on Kukak Bay. [63]

Two years later, most of those recommendations were incorporated into the monument's master plan. The four-chapter narrative was approved a chapter at a time. Most of the plan was forwarded from McKinley Park to the regional office in early 1960. The plan was not subject to public comment; citizens of Naknek, however, heard about it and were vociferous in their opposition to it. [64] In order to gain final approval, however, the plan had to pass a withering gauntlet within the bureaucracy; at the regional level the various plan sections had to pass both the Western Office of Design and Construction (WODC) and the regional director before they could be forwarded to the Washington office. The process, balkanized at best, allowed bureaucrats at various levels the opportunity to question individual sections of the plan. As a result, the master plan was more of a reflection of current management thinking than a blueprint for future development, and as such was altered when conditions demanded. Some sections of the master plan were approved only by the park superintendent, while other sections were approved by the NPS director. [65]

Access Issues Related to Mission 66, 1956-1958

As has been suggested above, the early years of the Mission 66 program brought rising, then falling, hopes for those who hoped to construct a Brooks Camp airstrip. When the program was launched in April 1956, the Mount McKinley superintendent made no provisions for an airstrip. [66] But when the NPS director released the detailed plan a year later, one of several proposed monument improvements was "an airstrip for wheel planes [to] be provided at a suitable location compatible with air currents, topography and landscape considerations near Brooks River Camp." The Master Plan Development Outline which followed made provisions for both an airfield and a jeep road connecting the site to Brooks Camp. [67] Duane Jacobs, the Superintendent at Mount McKinley, was an ardent backer of the airstrip, and he sent Neil Reid, his park naturalist, to make another site survey in the spring of 1958. [68] Momentum for an airstrip was halted, however, when Assistant Regional Director Herbert Maier requested that the airfield should be delayed for further study and eliminated from park planning. [69] As a result, the Control Schedule for the Mission 66 program rated the construction of the $180,000 airfield as the Service's fourth (and last) priority. [70] For the remainder of the decade, officials made no moves to implement an airstrip.

Other access issues were also addressed during the late 1950s. Mission 66, by and large, called for a reliance on either boats or float planes for travel within the monument's lake system; plans were thus made to build docks at Brooks Camp, Bay of Islands, Lake Grosvenor, Kukak Bay, and "near the Savonoski or Ukak Rivers on Naknek Lake." Regarding access from King Salmon into the monument, the Master Plan Development Outline of 1957 made the same suggestions as had George Collins five years earlier; namely, that the eight-mile road to Naknek Lake should be improved. Both plans, however, were woefully short on how access would be implemented. NPS planners were frank in admitting that future means of access was "one problem difficult to analyze at the moment," and they similarly hedged on whether the agency would sponsor improvements for the King Salmon-Naknek Lake road. [71]

An idea that was briefly toyed with during the period was relocating Brooks Camp boat docking facilities from the mouth of Brooks River to Mortuary Cove, a protected embayment located a mile northeast of the fishing camp. The idea was first broached in June 1957, when Superintendent Jacobs mentioned it to regional officials. Jacobs felt that large boats could be moored safely there regardless of the weather. All that was needed was the construction of a jeep road connecting the two points. The idea was mulled over for a year, and was included in the Master Plan Development Outline prepared in the fall of 1957. [72] The following year, the superintendent sent out his naturalist, Neil Reid, to survey the site. Reid found the cove was indeed "suitable as a shelter for boats; there are a few rocks and submerged trees, but in general the water is deep and safe. A floating dock could probably be built here for temporary shelter of boats." Unfortunately, however, the area's liabilities exceeded its advantages. He found that the land behind the cove was "exceedingly swampy, and boggy for a considerable distance up the ridge. Needless to say, mosquitoes are as thick as flies. The extreme end of the cove is unstable, and gives the impression of being very nearly quicksand." As a result of his trip, the idea of a boat landing in the cove was dropped--for the time being, at least. [73]

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Road

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was the centerpiece of Katmai National Monument when it was established in 1918. Its inaccessibility, however, made it off-limits to visitors. In order to render the site more accessible, Dr. Griggs had recommended that a road be built up the Katmai River valley into the heart of the volcanic region. [74] And in the 1920s (see Chapter 3), the Alaska Road Commission had investigated the possibilities of a road from Geographic Harbor into the volcanic area.

Isolation and the lack of funds caused the project to be dropped for the next quarter century. But in 1950, NPS planner George Collins suggested a road when he began making plans for recreational development in the monument. In memos sent to the regional director, he urged that a road be built from the south shore of Iliuk Arm up the Ukak River and into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. [75] In July 1952, he reaffirmed those plans when he suggested to the regional director that a "one-way road with turn-outs" should be built up the creek valley to the divide overlooking the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. [76] But the regional director, in his comments to the NPS director, warned that "The proposal to construct a road ... should be given very careful study before this project is undertaken," and that "A trail would be the most desirable means of access, at least until such time as visitation increases to a point where motor transportation is necessary to handle the larger crowds." [77]

Given the regional director's dictum, there was little talk of a road for the next few years. But when the Mission 66 program was unveiled in 1956, it included a ten-mile jeep road up the Ukak River valley. (The plan called for either planes or boats to connect Brooks Camp with the mouth of the Ukak River.) The road, however, was not a top priority; NPS employee quarters, a visitor center, and an airstrip were all considered to be more important. [78] By 1958, as noted above, Mount McKinley superintendent Duane Jacobs had concluded that a trail--not a road--into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes should comprise part of a "minimum first stage" of Katmai's development program. The trail, unlike the earlier roads that had been proposed, was intended to go all the way from Brooks Camp into the valley; the new route was decided upon because weather on Iliuk Arm made it unsafe for boat travel. When NPS Associate Director Eivind T. Scoyen and Regional Director Lawrence Merriam visited the monument that summer, they seconded the idea that a trail into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was sufficient. [79]

Ray Petersen, the head of the monument concession, was frustrated by the NPS's attitude toward Katmai development. He was well aware that the NPS, through the Mission 66 program, had a plan that called for many new developments, but he was also aware that nothing had become of those plans. The only NPS improvement in the entire monument, in fact, was the small ranger-station complex (ranger station, generator house, storage cache, fuel tank, and weather instrument shelter) which had been built from 1955 to 1957. [80] Ray Petersen, having larger projects in mind, had advocated the construction of a road "from some point on Naknek Lake" to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes as early as September 1950, and was particularly upset that the agency had shown little interest in building such a road. [81] Under the existing state of affairs, few Katmai visitors saw the valley because chartering a plane was expensive, and poor weather limited the opportunities for overflights. Petersen was certain that a road connecting Brooks Camp to the valley was the most viable solution.

When Petersen met with the NPS in early 1960 to lay out his development plans, Director Conrad Wirth and other officials promised verbal support for a road if Petersen would enhance the facilities at Brooks Camp. [82] Petersen, true to his word, fulfilled his part of the agreement during the summer of 1960. But when Petersen returned to Washington the following February, Assistant Director Jackson Price noted that the best he could hope for would be "a pioneer road of about twelve miles in length around the base of Mt. Katolinat which could be reached by boat from Brooks River," the terminus of which would be the base for four-wheel vehicle trips into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. [83] And according to George Sundborg, an administrative aide to U.S. Senator Ernest Gruening, even a twelve-mile road was not possible because of opposition from the Sierra Club or other preservationists. [84]

After Sundborg informed Petersen of the status of the project, Gruening arranged for a meeting the following day with both Petersen and Director Wirth. At that meeting, Gruening convinced Wirth to commence road construction despite objections; as Petersen remembers the conversation, "the old Senator grabbed this guy [Wirth] by the scruff, and says 'you don't treat a constituent like this.'" [85] Wirth capitulated.

Two months later, Katmai Ranger-in-Chief Robert Peterson was asked to determine the road's right-of-way. He briefly considered a route which began at Research Bay (at the mouth of O Creek), but decided instead to adopt the present route. [86] That August he led a party which surveyed the route. The route was approved by regional officials, and a Project Construction Program Proposal for a $153,120 road building job was drawn up. Construction equipment was driven to Brooks Camp in March 1962 over the Naknek Lake ice. Road building began as soon as the ground began to thaw. By July 4, eight miles had been roughed out, and the jeep road was completed by the end of the season. [87] The first tours up the road began in 1963, using either a 16-passenger bus (a converted, surplus military ammunition carrier built on a cab-over 1961 GMC frame) or an 8-passenger Chevrolet carryall. Visitors, by and large, enjoyed the trip. The road surface, however, was considered too dusty when dry, and too unstable when wet. Therefore, the road was graveled after the first season. [88]

The Congressional pressure which led to road construction threw the Mission 66 program for the monument into disarray. The cost of the road project eventually totalled $205,000; the sum was more than had been spent at the monument for all purposes since 1950. [89] It relegated all other park functions to a lower priority; as time would tell, the practical result of the road construction was that few other Mission 66 projects were constructed during the life of the program. Road construction also had the practical effect of centralizing more of the park's resources on concessioner-oriented activities, and it ensured that future activities revolved around Brooks Camp rather than the more dispersed program called for in the Mission 66 prospectus.

The road spawned several ancillary developments. Spur trails to Margot Falls and the summit of Overlook Mountain were completed in 1962. [90] The agency also built a 24' x 28' reception center at Windy Creek Overlook, and by early 1963 had created the one and one-half mile trail that connected the overlook with the Ukak River. [91] The Mount McKinley superintendent hoped that the momentum of road construction would also result in the creation of an improved Windy Creek Trail Camp near the overlook, but the plan did not survive the budgetary process. [92]

The effects of the road project were also felt in Brooks Camp. Materials for three Panabode cabins, which were used by construction personnel, were flown in during the spring of 1962. A boathouse was also built that year, and the following spring a DC-3 on skis brought in the materials needed to construct a warehouse. [93]

The Proposed Trans-Peninsula Highway

The construction of the Valley Road, in conjunction with the opening of the Alaska Marine Highway system, caused many to seriously consider the idea of a road connecting the Naknek-King Salmon area with a ferry terminal on the east side of the peninsula.

During the 1916-1923 period, plans had surfaced for roads from Shelikof Strait into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. In 1942, Frank Been, the superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park, was the first to propose a road that would connect Shelikof Strait with Bristol Bay. He declared that such a project was feasible, and noted that

Except for the stretch between the Valley of 10,000 Smokes and Geographic Harbor the construction will be easy because the terrain is almost level. The highway will have military value and will tap the greatest salmon fishing region in the world. It will therefore be commercially beneficial. Although the latter is inconsistent with National Park Service functions, it will contribute to placing Katmai on the map. The combined values should heighten the chances for getting a road that will otherwise be based only on its recreational merits. [94]

But regional officials took exception to Been's idea. Most thought that proposing a road was too bold a move for a park lacking even minimal facilities. Joseph Dixon, the regional naturalist, was more specific in his criticisms. Citing the example of the Nizina mining road (in present-day Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve), where a road was abandoned because traffic moved by plane, Dixon wrote that "road plans such as proposed for Katmai National Monument might be entirely out-moded before they could be completed." He also worried that if the road was considered valuable for military purposes, "such a road might be utilized by the enemy as well as by us." [95] Dixon's persuasiveness, combined with the almost total lack of an NPS budget, meant that Been's ideas were put on hold for years to come.

For almost twenty years, few people raised their voice about a trans-peninsula road. Grant Pearson, who succeeded Been as superintendent, did not share his sentiments on the topic, and after Collins's Alaska Recreation Survey work of 1950, plans were focused on either a trail or road to provide access only from Naknek Lake to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

The advent of statehood, however, reactivated the idea of building a road from the Naknek-King Salmon area to the opposite side of the peninsula. In the first session of the state legislature, Naknek Representative Jay Hammond introduced a successful House resolution. It requested that the Department of Public Works initiate an engineering survey for a road connecting King Salmon with Bruin Bay, the latter a proposed ferry-terminal site located west of Augustine Island. The Senate passed no such resolution. [96] Legislative highway boosters steered clear of the Katmai area for the time being.

As soon as the NPS decided to build the Valley road, agitation began to build a road connecting it to the outside road system. Senator Gruening, it may be remembered, convinced NPS Director Conrad Wirth to construct the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes road in mid-February 1961. Less than a month later, on March 6, the House passed a resolution asking "that a road be planned and constructed by the state and the federal government from the Bristol Bay area through the Mount Katmai National Monument to the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula" and "that the Kodiak-Homer ferry system be extended by the state to include a terminal at the end of this road..." On March 30, the Alaska Senate passed the same resolution. [97]

Just a year after the NPS decided to build the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes road, the Alaska House of Representatives passed two resolutions--HJR 38 and HJR 49--which advocated the construction of additional highway mileage in Katmai National Monument. One urged that a road be built from the outlet of Naknek Lake (which was the terminus of the existing road) to the Brooks Lake terminus of the Valley Road. In its other resolution, the state house urged construction from the terminus of the Valley Road east to Kukak Bay, where a state-sponsored ferry terminal was to be built. The cumulative effect of the two resolutions was to support a road that stretched all the way from Bristol Bay to Shelikof Strait. Senator Gruening supported both resolutions. He noted that Katmai's biggest problem was its inaccessibility and felt that the resolutions "would do much to remove this curse and open the park to vehicular traffic." But NPS Director Conrad Wirth, upon hearing of the resolutions, quashed the idea. He told Gruening that the construction of a lodge at Glacier Bay and a second hotel at Mount McKinley--both of which Gruening favored--were more important than a trans-peninsula road. [98]

In 1963 the state began operating its marine highway system, and the opening of a terminal in Kodiak heightened interest in a trans-peninsula road. Hammond spearheaded a successful House resolution that year urging the Department of Highways and the Department of Public Works to study the most feasible route for such a road. [99] By fall, Hammond was convinced that the optimal route was one which would connect Naknek with Kukak Bay. He passed those ideas on to Senator Bartlett, who in turn talked up the idea with NPS Director Conrad Wirth. NPS officials told Bartlett that there were no present plans to improve access to the monument, and that they did "not consider a route through Katmai as a part of a State Highway system either necessary or desirable." They felt sure that a feasible alternate route around the monument could be found. Once built, the NPS might then consider building a spur road from the new road into the monument. [100]

Bartlett, who admitted to a keen interest in the project, responded to NPS skepticism by asking to comment on the monument Master Plan, which was scheduled to be completed in the spring of 1964. [101] Hammond's initial response to the NPS's reluctance was a search for an alternate route. By April 1964, however, his enthusiasm for the Naknek-Kukak Bay road had revived; his supporters included Ray Petersen of the NCA and Grant Pearson, the former superintendent of Mount McKinley National Park. Bartlett was sympathetic to Hammond's views, but far higher on his priority list was the reconstruction of roads destroyed by the recent Good Friday earthquake. Any plans regarding new roads would have to be delayed. [102]

The Park Service, while holding firm regarding a road through the monument, did not want to appear opposed to all development. The agency, in fact, welcomed the opportunity to encourage visitation along the Shelikof Strait coastline. In 1963, a starry-eyed planning team had suggested that "A chalet possibly at Geographic Harbor could be a port of call and a stopping place for those making the trip up the coast... This could be one of the outstanding experiences the Monument has to offer." [103] Two years later, the master plan brief which guided monument affairs chose Kukak Bay as the NPS's designated Shelikof Strait development site. It noted that "The Alaska marine highway could be extended to include the Shelikof Strait and its coastal areas," and promised to provide facilities and accommodations at Kukak Bay "when the need becomes apparent." [104]

During the three years which followed the Good Friday earthquake, few efforts were made in regards to a transcontinental road. In 1965, the state legislature pushed for a road north of the monument when it passed a joint resolution requesting that the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads provide technical and financial assistance in planning such a route. Little momentum, however, resulted from its passage. [105]

Despite the Service's recalcitrant attitude toward any new road construction in the monument, hopes remained high that a road might be built west through Katmai to Bristol Bay. Local residents were solidly behind the project, as were officials at the Bureau of Public Roads, the Alaska Department of Highways, the Federal Highway Administration, and the entire Alaska Congressional delegation. Northern Consolidated Airlines, the monument concessioner, also favored the road. Based on that support, Senator Gruening's assistant, George Sundborg, asked NPS Director George Hartzog for his comments on the project. [106] The NPS, however, responded the same way as they did in November 1963; that is, it urged the road planners to locate a road outside the monument. Only then would it consider the possibility of a spur road into the monument. [107]

Meanwhile, Alaska's road planners were weighing the pros and cons of two Katmai routes with other rights-of-way across the Alaska Peninsula. Two routes which connected King Salmon to Cook Inlet via Iliamna Lake were also considered. But in late November, Alaska's Commissioner of Highways notified Hartzog that the Iliamna Lake routes were being discarded from further consideration. The commissioner, Warren Gonnason, wrote that

Several routes in this corridor are practical from a highway construction standpoint. However, the almost complete lack of a suitable harbor along Cook Inlet poses nearly insurmountable problems from the standpoint of a coordinated and reliable transportation network.

He further explained that the only two suitable harbors along the east coast of the peninsula were Devils Cove and Geographic Harbor, both of which were located inside the monument. He recognized that such a highway "would not be completely compatible with the aims of the National Park Service," but justified his conclusions by noting that

a refusal to allow the Department of Highways to construct a highway in the Monument could effectively bar us from extending our transportation network into the vast area of southwestern Alaska. It should be needless to point out that the ultimate economic development of this area is dependent upon low cost transportation being provided.... It is our belief that the necessity for expansion of Alaska's transportation network is a need which must be met. [108]

Director Hartzog was not about to be prodded, or intimidated, into acquiescing to a highway that was not in the Service's best interest. When he wrote Gonnason on January 15, he recognized Alaska's need to improve its road system. He reiterated, however, that the construction of a highway bearing commercial traffic through the monument would be contrary to the purposes for which the area was established. "We could not agree to such a road," he stated, and further explained that "The two routes indicated ... would be particularly destructive to park values." In conclusion, he noted that the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1966, and the 1966 law which created the U.S. Department of Transportation, were specifically intended to give added protection to park lands against intrusion and the harmful effects of highway construction. [109]

In response, the Alaska Legislature passed a joint resolution requesting the NPS to reconsider its objections to the Katmai highway. [110] Local governments also did what they could. On May 31, 1968, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly passed a resolution supporting road construction. Other resolutions were passed by the City of Anchorage (July 9), Kenai Peninsula Borough (July 15), Kodiak Island Borough (July 22), and the City of Homer (August 26). [111] But in April and again in August, the NPS reaffirmed its opposition to the project. That opposition effectively squelched any thoughts of a monument road for the time being. [112]

King Salmon Facility Establishment

During the years in which Katmai was managed from McKinley Park, various locations were considered for a headquarters site. The first to ponder the idea was Mount McKinley Superintendent Frank Been, who had visited Katmai for several weeks in 1940. When Katmai's first master plan was written in 1942, Been called for the construction of a permanent headquarters and visitor center in Geographic Harbor, a well-protected cove along the Shelikof Strait coastline. Been favored the site "because of its proximity to travel from the states." But the superintendent was pragmatic enough to realize that "there is still some justification for having Naknek as the monument base until funds are provided for its development. Naknek provides a place of residence for the first personnel and is accessible to the part of the monument in which most of the violations are occurring from hunting and trapping. Out from Naknek, the development at Brooks Lake and Brooks River can be prepared and many of the proposed shelter cabins constructed." [113]

By 1950, NPS personnel recognized that development along the Shelikof Strait was still a long way off, and that the park headquarters, when established, should be located near where visitor facilities were likely to be built. NPS planner George Collins, that year, argued that a winter base of operations should be established at Naknek, because the community was "ideally located for all servicing purposes." [114] But two years later, when he submitted his final recommendations on Katmai development, he recognized the emerging importance of the King Salmon area by recommending a headquarters location "somewhere in the vicinity of King Salmon"--either at King Salmon itself, or better yet at the western end of Naknek Lake. He found the location desirable because it provided quick access to the King Salmon Airport, and would serve as the base of access for boat transportation to lakeside developments. Collins felt that boat transportation would be an essential phase of the operation during foggy weather, when plane transportation was impossible. [115]

Other NPS officials agreed with Collins's choice. Grant Pearson, the McKinley superintendent, agreed that the Naknek Lake-Naknek River area was the best choice for a monument headquarters; his second choice was King Salmon. The regional director concurred, and during a 1952 visit to the monument, NPS Director Conrad Wirth also approved a King Salmon headquarters site. The Civil Aeronautics Administration, which had owned property in the King Salmon area since 1950, offered the agency sufficient land to establish its facilities. [116]

When the Mission 66 program was unveiled in 1956, it called for "a headquarters area at King Salmon, where the necessary administrative, utility, and residential buildings would be located." [117] A management survey team sent to the site that summer reconfirmed the desirability of the site. A year later, a more detailed plan for Mission 66 activities noted that "There are definite advantages for this decision, not the least important being that it eliminates an unsightly development within the monument itself." [118] The Master Plan Development Outline, later that year, noted that

In addition to the administration building it is planned to construct a single family residence for the Superintendent and a 4-unit apartment house for staff members and others in the local organization. In addition, there is proposed a heat plant building, garages and marine docks. [119]

The agency had, by this time, found land on which to erect its headquarters complex. Duane Jacobs, the Mount McKinley superintendent, began the process in February 1957. [120] At year's end, he wrote that plans had been crystallized to locate monument headquarters at King Salmon. Negotiations had been underway that year to secure two small tracts from other agencies: a 4.68-acre parcel (later increased to 6.78 acres) from the Fish and Wildlife Service, and a 4.65-acre parcel from the Civil Aeronautics Administration. The two parcels would extend from the road which lined the edge of the airport down to the Naknek River. He programmed funds for initial King Salmon construction, which was to include riverside docking facilities, for FY 1959. [121]

When the NPS Associate Director and the Region Four Director visited the area in 1958, they recommended that the initial development at the monument include King Salmon facilities, including a three-bedroom residence for the superintendent and a combination garage, storage space, and office space. A sufficient budget for a superintendent, however, was not passed; therefore, the King Salmon facility package was put off until the 1962 fiscal year. But the NPS was so certain that King Salmon was its headquarters site that it notified the Secretary of the Interior, Fred Seaton, of its interest in obtaining the 11.43-acre site which had originally been discussed in February 1957. On May 26, 1959, Seaton signed Public Land Order 1861, which conveyed the tract to the NPS. [122]

Despite the general approval given the King Salmon site, its advisability came into question once again in early 1959. In February, in a routine memorandum, Supt. Jacobs notified regional officials that water access into the monument would necessitate docking facilities at the west end of Naknek Lake; he therefore urged improvement of the existing truck trail which connected King Salmon with Naknek Lake. In response, Jacobs was requested to make a routine approval of a drawing regarding the King Salmon administrative site; in addition, he was asked to provide information on Naknek River navigation. On April 21, Jacobs responded and explained that river navigability was poor; it could be run only by shallow-draft boats, and then only during a relatively brief high-water season. [123]

Jacobs, who had assumed all along that the monument would be served by either a King Salmon-Lake Camp road or by air, felt that the rapids along the Naknek River had little relevance to the applicability of King Salmon as a headquarters site. But when Merel Sager, the Chief Landscape Architect in the Washington office, showed Jacobs' memo to Director Wirth, the two requested that all further work on the King Salmon site be held in abeyance. Wirth and Sager apparently felt that the Naknek River had been counted on to be a key route for freight into the monument. The recognition that the river could not be relied upon forced Wirth, who had tabbed King Salmon as the administrative site seven years earlier, to look at the matter of monument access all over again. They recommended that a Regional Management Survey Team investigate. [124] The survey team visited the King Salmon area in early July. Given the recommendations from that visit, the director announced that he had no further objections to the originally designated site. [125]

By March 1961, plans for a duplex residence and a heating/shop building were on line for the 1963 fiscal year. But the money required to build the Valley road was so overwhelming that the project was again delayed. [126]

Before development could begin, however, officials at another federal agency suggested that the NPS consider another site in the King Salmon area. A Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) official contacted the regional director in March 1962 and mentioned that the FAA's master plan called for the construction of an access road and concession area at the north end of the NPS parcel. [127] In response, the NPS noted its willingness to reconsider its development plans, and within a few days it had found a new headquarters location. [128]

The new site, which was administered by the Bureau of Land Management, was initially thought to be unsuitable for development, and for the next six months the agency weighed, yet again, the advantages of King Salmon vis-à-vis other locations (such as Anchorage or Brooks Camp) as a headquarters site. Soil tests conducted at the new site, and a reappraisal of the King Salmon vicinity, found that the site was "not ideal in many respects for a headquarters, [but] it was the most suitable site under the circumstances." The NPS, happy again at King Salmon, waited for word from the FAA before it proceeded to a new location. The FAA, however, recanted its development plans and withdrew its request for the NPS parcel. Instead, it merely asked to utilize the northern portion of its air space. The NPS, in November 1962, acceded to the request. Since that time, the agency has had no further threats to its property; its headquarters location is the same size allotted to it in 1959. [129]

Plans for the facilities construction were finally approved during the 1964 fiscal year. On March 17, 1964, Steward and Company of Anchorage was awarded a $222,448 contract to erect "residential and operational facilities" at King Salmon. [130] The administrative headquarters was completed and accepted by the agency on November 14; facilities included a duplex residence, of which half was used as an office and maintenance building. Soon afterwards, the Supervisory Park Ranger began using the facilities for both winter and summer use. [131]

Master Plan Activity, 1963-1967

During the early 1960s, NPS personnel had been active on a master plan for Katmai National Monument. Some portions of the plan, however, were approved more quickly than others, and the chapter-by-chapter approval process made it difficult to envision that a single, unified master plan would ever emerge from the process. The construction of the Valley Road, moreover, meant that several aspects of the master plan had become obsolete. NPS officials dutifully pressed ahead with the patchwork revision process.

But by early 1963 the outgoing regional director, Lawrence C. Merriam, had become convinced that the master plan process needed to begin anew. To that end, he arranged with Oscar Dick, the new superintendent at Mount McKinley, to have a master plan study team meet at the monument that summer, and promised that one result of the meeting would be the revision of the existing master plan chapters. [132]

The study team picked by Merriam was not a random assortment of bureaucrats. Four of the six, to be sure, were NPS employees. But the group was singular in that several of its members were outspoken wilderness advocates. Lowell Sumner, the NPS research biologist, had written about the monument a decade earlier for the Sierra Club Bulletin; Robert F. Cooney, from Montana, was an officer in the Wilderness Society; and Sigurd Olson was "a legend among canoeists for his reflective essays on nature and the outdoor experience." Wally McCall (a regional planner), Alfred Kuehl (the regional landscape architect), and Oscar Dick rounded out the group. [133]

Merriam gave Dick, the field leader, a broad range of responsibility. A week before the group convened, Dick reported that he hoped "to cover and discuss the entire area and come up with a complete master plan." [134] The group, as it turned out, spent nine days in the monument, and travelled the Shelikof Strait coastline as well as in the lake country. Sumner emerged from the experience and penned a 50-page report which the new regional director, Edward A. Hummel, deemed "of inestimable value help in formulating the Katmai master plan." But the report, which was predictably rich in prose which embellished the monument's wilderness resource, did not replace the existing master plan. NPS personnel continued to revise key elements of the 1960 master plan as late as November 1964. [135]

In August 1965, at the suggestion of the agency's recently-organized Alaska Task Force, the Advisory Board on National Parks, Buildings, Historic Sites and Monuments returned to Katmai for the first time in 13 years. The Board spent three days in the monument. The group reached many of the same conclusions as had the Master Plan Field Study team of 1963, though its report was presented with far less of a rhetorical flourish. The Board concluded that it was comfortable with the present level of development. It noted that "Foot trails in the Valley, or at least lines of cairns to mark routes, are needed, and over-night shelters for the hardy hikers, but development in the ordinary sense is no present need." [136]

The Master Plan Brief issued the following month, however, offered ideas fundamentally different from those suggested by the Advisory Board. The Brief, much as the Mission 66 program had done eight years earlier, called for new developments throughout the monument. It envisioned four development nodes: Brooks Camp, Bay of Islands, Kukak Bay, and a Lower Naknek Lake site. Brooks Camp and the Bay of Islands would be the sites of the largest developments. The plan called for many new facilities at Brooks Camp: an auditorium, food and supplies, an NPS district office, and a maintenance area. The proposed Bay of Islands development was initially planned to be small, but it would eventually offer most of the same services as Brooks Camp. Park planners envisioned that the "pillow count" (lodging capacity) at Brooks Camp, currently 60, would be increased to 100 within 10 years and would eventually expand to 300 or 350. Long-range plans called for lodging on a similar scale at the Bay of Islands. Campgrounds with 50-100 sites were planned at both sites. The Lower Naknek Lake area, which was outside of the monument, was proposed to have a dock and boathouse, boat rental facilities, storage building, information and waiting room, and float plane landing area. The exact site of the development, however, was dependent upon a survey to find adequate water depths for the size of boats that were being planned. Kukak Bay, the final development site, was more long-term in scope. A future multi-use development, on the same scale as Brooks Camp, was planned there. Plans were put on hold, however, until travel to the coast could be developed. [137]

The plan, however, was by no means a one-sided development document. The plan, for example, called for the addition of some 541,900 acres to the monument; major additions were called for in the Douglas and Kamishak river drainages and in the American and Hardscrabble creek drainages. The plan also called for a Lower Naknek Lake addition, which would bring the proposed Lower Naknek Lake development site within the monument's boundaries.

The Master Plan Brief also proposed that the Northern Consolidated camp at Lake Grosvenor be abolished. Two reasons were given. First, planners felt that there had been "practically no use of the camp in recent years by Park visitors;" second, the lake was planning to be included in a wilderness area. The Wilderness Act had become law in 1964, and as a result, planners for the first time were attempting to determine which of Katmai's lands belonged in the National Wilderness Preservation System. They determined that most of the monument--slightly over two million acres--should be so categorized. The only areas not proposed for wilderness were Naknek and Brooks Lake, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes road, and a buffer zone which extended a few miles around each. [138]

In January 1967, the Master Plan Brief was updated, and several significant modifications were implemented. The locations and degree of facility development remained as they had in the 1965 plan. Those portions dealing with the need to expand the monument, however, were excised; planners still recommended that the Lower Naknek Lake site be developed, but they decided that it was no longer necessary to extend the boundary west to include it. In addition, the revised plan treated wilderness differently; wilderness as a general resource was still included, but specific suggestions regarding the designation of land within the National Wilderness Preservation System were removed. [139]

Access Issues During the 1960s

During the 1950s, both NCA and the NPS had become increasingly aware that access within the monument needed to be improved. Each, however, hoped that the other would sponsor the needed transportation improvements. The bottom line was that given the numbers being attracted to the monument, no one was willing to risk investing in transportation infrastructure.

As noted above, NCA had pinned its main hopes for monument access on the construction of an airstrip near Brooks Camp. They had first presented the idea in 1954, and it was considered off and on until 1958, when Herbert Maier, the Acting Regional Director, decided that the matter should be tabled. The NPS made vague plans for an internal circulation system based on boats and float planes, but the idea was never seriously considered during the budgetary process.

In early 1960, the idea of an airstrip rose again when the concessioner announced that it was embarking on a building program. It planned to build a lodge, seven cabins, a rest room facility and related improvements. NCA, having stuck out its financial neck, required no quid pro quo from the park service. One of its officers, however, implored the agency to "do something concrete" to develop the park; an airstrip was one of several suggested improvements. But the NPS was cool to the idea of spending development dollars in a park that had received one of the lowest visitation levels in the system. Asked to explain the agency's lack of interest, the regional director searched for an excuse before noting that "since the concessioner has developed and is using an airstrip at its Kulik camp outside the monument, we do not consider another strip inside the monument to be of vital importance at this time." In a similar vein, the 1960 master plan downplayed the need for an airstrip, suggesting that "Katmai transportation should be limited in general to boats and float planes unless future study determines the necessity for a landing strip." [140]

Although the agency's 1965 Master Plan Brief noted that no airstrips for land-based planes would be developed, [141] NCA made another attempt to construct an airstrip near Brooks Camp. In 1966, airline officials began to recognize the need to purchase jet airplanes in order to adequately serve its far-flung system; in order to afford them, they began speaking to Wien Air Alaska officials about a possible merger. The two airlines announced the merger on March 15, 1967. The effect of the announcement, as it related to the Katmai camps, was a desire to extract higher profits from them. The increasing number of visitors during the 1960s gave some hope of enhanced revenues. Airline officials perceived that if access restrictions at Brooks Camp could be eased, greater site development would ensue.

The NPS, at the time, was interested in issuing long-term contracts to concessioners throughout the system. [142] But NCA officials felt so strongly about the necessity of the airstrip that they tied its construction to the creation of a new contract, just as they had done in 1955. The runway for such a strip was ideally to be 5000 to 6000 feet in length, which was enough to land the Boeing 737-200s the airline was intending to purchase. But they were willing to settle for a 3000-3500 foot strip so that a Twin Otter or Skyvan SC7 would be able to use it. [143] The concessioner argued that an airstrip was needed for reasons of safety and reasoned that inasmuch as Alaska's other NPS units contained airstrips, Katmai should offer one as well. [144] But in May 1967 NPS officials rejected the airstrip idea yet again, reasoning that such a facility would change the "wilderness atmosphere and the feeling of isolation and remoteness that it now has." The concessioner responded to the rejection by indicating it would "invest substantially in the area if it warranted such action," but unless the airstrip question could be resolved he promised no new improvements. [145]

The idea of a Brooks Camp airstrip was, by now, effectively dead. In January 1968, an NPS official dutifully offered to incorporate the airport issue into the monument's master planning process. That master plan, however, took five years to complete, and gave no encouragement toward those who hoped to have an airstrip built. The 1974 final wilderness plan noted that "no aircraft landing strips are planned within the monument," and proposed that the planned airstrip site be included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. [146] When the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was signed, however, the area surrounding the airstrip was one of the few areas in the pre-1978 monument that was not designated as wilderness.

Meanwhile, other access questions continued to fester during the 1960s. In order to promote transportation within the park, and to obviate the need for an airstrip, the 1965 Master Plan Brief noted that "A program must be devised to permit access to the Monument for greater numbers of people by means other than float plane. The development of harbor facilities on lower Naknek Lake will make possible access to the area." It bluntly stated that "Naknek Lake will be the principal traffic artery for the transportation of visitors and supplies to developed areas on the lake shore," and it reiterated the need for a large boat which would shuttle visitors back and forth between King Salmon, Brooks Camp, and the proposed visitor complex at Bay of Islands. Alaska's Congressman, Ralph Rivers, also recognized the need. The NPS, however, continued to urge that the boat be owned and operated by the concessioner, while others hoped that the NPS would take on the job. [147]

In order to spur development in the monument, both the NPS director and the regional director briefly expressed their willingness to sponsor a road connecting King Salmon and Brooks Camp. The agency was then under considerable pressure because of its opposition to a trans-peninsula highway, and had gone on record as considering such a spur road if the trans-peninsula highway had been constructed outside of the monument. Recognizing the importance of preserving the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes at all costs, officials may have felt that constructing a spur road could be done without undue harm to Katmai's resources. The cost of such a road, however, and the opposition of other NPS officials prevented such a concept from gaining much headway. [148]

For the rest of the decade, the stalemate over transportation continued, although the responsibility for its development shifted. By 1967, the NPS recognized that the concessioner had neither the willingness nor the financial incentive to sponsor a tour-boat operation. Therefore, the agency took control over its development, although it took no action to create such a system. [149]

NPS officials, ever wary of protecting the monument's resource values, began to become concerned during the mid-1960s about the proliferation of aircraft using the monument. Until 1949, the monument had ostensibly been closed to all aircraft except those on official agency business. Thereafter, the monument had been open from May 15 until September 15. But by 1965, officials felt that the "Regulation permitting indiscriminate land of aircraft anywhere within the Monument should be revised to designate specific sites adjacent to developed areas." They were particularly worried that, with the growing popularity of helicopters, monument values were in danger of being lost. [150] But no new regulations came forth.

For awhile, NPS officials resurrected the idea, first promulgated in the 1950s, of a boat docking and float plane base at Mortuary Cove, just north of Brooks Camp. The cove was appealing because the site was more protected than the area surrounding the mouth of Brooks River, and because a remote site for takeoffs and landings would interfere less with guest activities at the camp. The idea of developing the cove resurfaced in the 1965 Master Plan Brief; the plan also proposed new camping, visitor contact and staff facilities along the road that was to be constructed between the camp and the cove. [151]

A year later, the superintendent formally proposed construction at the site, suggesting that a utility area and fuel storage facility be built in addition to a dock. An engineering company surveyed the site that summer. Development at the cove continued to be considered as late as October 1967. The construction proposal was considered over the next several years, but it was never funded, and by 1972 the idea of improvements at the cove had been officially abandoned. At various times during the 1970s, the agency proposed other uses there: as a temporary boat storage, as the site for a relocated Brooks Camp campground, or as an overflow campground. None of these were immediately implemented. Not until the 1990s did Mortuary Cove assume its present role as a mooring area for park boats. [152]

Another access issue that the Park Service had to wrestle with was the problem of how to cross Brooks River. During the 1950s, there was little relatively demand to cross the river; fishermen did not need to cross it in order to fish its mouth or the Brooks Falls area. Those who fished the south bank of the Brooks River, and the staff at the Brooks Lake fisheries station, used boats provided by the concessioner. Several plans during the 1950s proposed the construction of a footbridge; in 1956 a bridge was partially constructed, but it was damaged the same year by high water. Nothing more came of the plans. [153]

When, in 1960, NCA proposed to improve its facilities, it began to pressure the Service for support facilities. Among the items that it hoped the NPS would supply were docks, both for float planes and skiffs. [154] The agency ignored NCA's request, at least for the time being.

The construction of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes road exacerbated the river-crossing problem. To make the crossing more convenient, the NPS included, in the road building contract, a provision for the construction of two small docks. On the south bank a small, L-shaped dock was built near the present bus loading area, while on the north side a linear dock was laid out at the head of a small embayment. This embayment, which no longer exists, was located just upriver from the mouth of the Brooks River and downstream from the Valley Road terminus. The concessioner used several small powerboats to ferry guests back and forth across the river. In the mid-1960s the superintendent attempted to obtain funds for a narrow suspension bridge, but the request was denied. [155] Lacking other choices, powerboats remained the primary method of stream-crossing for the remainder of the decade.

Staff and the Enforcement Problem

During the 1950s, Katmai had subsisted on a minimal budget, and its staff had henceforth been able to do little but oversee activities at the Brooks River fishing camp. The agency was able to hire an additional ranger as early as 1955, but as late as 1959, the monument was still staffed by two seasonal rangers and its budget was still less than $10,000. [156] The monument had not, by that date, received a budgetary allowance for either roads and trails or for buildings and utilities. Consequently, only two rustic buildings had been constructed: the original ranger cabin, at the site of today's Brooks Camp campground, and the present visitor contact station. Whatever trails had been cleared had likewise been the result of volunteer efforts of NPS rangers. After the 1960 season, the Katmai staff still consisted of just two personnel: a ranger-in-charge and a seasonal park ranger. [157]

From 1960 through 1964, the monument's budget roughly doubled, and further improvements were witnessed. Several buildings were established at Brooks Camp in 1962 and 1963, when the Valley Road was being constructed; in addition, a shelter was built at Three Forks Overlook, at the road terminus. The completion of the road meant that additional staff were needed to accompany the vehicles heading up to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. More important, the Valley Road tour attracted visitors who were attracted to a broad range of monument resources.

By 1965, basic facilities had been completed in King Salmon, and the Supervisory Park Ranger, which heretofore had wintered at Mount McKinley, took up winter residency at the King Salmon headquarters. [158] For the remainder of the decade, budgets and staff enjoyed a healthy growth. The monument budget, which had been slightly over $20,000 in fiscal year 1964, grew sixfold in just five years. (From 1966 to 1967 it more than doubled.) New staff residences--two cabins and three framed tents--appeared at Brooks Camp. By 1970, the monument was able to boast two permanent employees--a management assistant and a park ranger--along with five seasonal employees. [159]

The growth in staff gave the monument some help in the management of its resources. In the 1950s, monument officials had had scant ability to quickly visit the more remote portions of their domain. The agency was never certain that its borders were secure against threats from poachers. Based on their relationship with Fish and Wildlife Service agents, the first NPS rangers knew that "serious poaching by hunters, trappers, and fishermen occurs regularly" and that the need for "organized protection of wildlife and other resources ... is obvious." The agency tried, without success, to bolster its appropriation to support its law enforcement functions. [160] But rangers lacked that ability because they were seldom able to leave Brooks Camp. They considered themselves fortunate when the concessioner offered them flights into the more remote areas of the monument. [161] To aid in enforcement efforts, the Fish and Wildlife Service continued to assist the NPS, and its officers continued to be deputized as park rangers. Even so, enforcement personnel sallied away from Brooks Camp only two or three times each summer, and an NPS visit to the coastal side of the monument was a rare event. [162]

During the 1960s, additional staff helped control the increasing level of activity at Brooks Camp. Outside of the camp and the Valley Road corridor, however, the agency remained almost powerless to recognize, let alone gain control over, possibly illegal activities in the remote sections of the park. Poaching, the worst of those problems, became an increasing problem during this period. [163] By 1965, when the Advisory Board on National Parks, Buildings, Historic Sites and Monuments visited the monument, they noted that "Katmai ... without planes and with too few boats, is completely incapable of managing and protecting these grand places. Poaching is a universal problem." [164] Regional office staff warned that three new rangers were immediately needed "to provide even token protection and minimal observation to the vast area."

The NPS tried as best as it could to control the poaching problem. In October 1966, Management Assistant Darrell Coe made the first arrest for violating the monument's hunting regulations when he cited Andy Runyan for guiding a client on a brown bear hunt. As part of the same case, Coe also cited a pilot, Robert King, for landing in the monument out of season. Both violators were convicted and fined. The NPS was pleased to gain the two convictions; even so, the agency considered both fines woefully inadequate, because they did little to deter poaching in the monument. [165]

The Runyan case, while nominally successful, was particularly frustrating because it underscored the difficulty in enforcing the regulations against hunting. In so doing, it exposed the laissez faire attitude which the local judicial system held toward hunting violations, and it also showed that Park Service officials sometimes had to make decisions based on political expediency rather than the protection of park values.

The case, at first, was a clear violation of monument regulations. Runyan had taken a wealthy Austrian hunter named Kurt Smolka into the monument to shoot a trophy brown bear on October 26, 1966. The kill was made 19 miles inside monument boundaries, about 40 miles southeast of King Salmon in the King Salmon River drainage. By dint of some excellent detective work, Coe apprehended Runyan, confiscated the bear hide, and took the guide before the U.S. Commissioner in Anchorage on October 31. Runyan was fined $300. Robert King of Naknek, the pilot who flew Runyan and Smolka on the poaching expedition, was later fined $200 ($175 suspended) for landing an airplane in the monument between September 15 and May 15. [166]

Soon after making the case, Coe began getting telephone calls from Washington offices of the NPS asking for a "full report" and inquiring about the procedures that had been followed. He interpreted this as subtle pressure to drop the case; he believed that Oscar Dick, Superintendent at Mount McKinley and his supervisor, had received the same kinds of pressure. In Coe's opinion, Dick was transferred from McKinley to Bryce Canyon, Utah, because of his support for Coe. (Dick left Mount McKinley in February 1967.)

Despite the surmised pressure, Coe pressed the case. Smolka paid the guide's $300 fine. The hunter insisted on getting his bear hide back, and began to work through the Austrian government to recover it. He claimed to have a museum on his estate and indicated his desire to display the hide there. [167] The U.S. State Department, apparently anxious to please the Austrians, asked the NPS to retrieve the bear hide. NPS Director George Hartzog, unwilling to provoke an international incident, backed down. He ordered George Hall, who was en route to McKinley to replace Oscar Dick, to recover the bear hide. Hall found it in an Anchorage taxidermy shop, and the NPS paid to have it treated and shipped to the Austrian museum. Appalled at the NPS's resolution of the Smolka case, Coe submitted his resignation at the end of the 1967 visitor season. [168]

Perhaps because of the Smolka case, the lack of protection given the monument resulted in nationwide press. In 1969, the Christian Science Monitor featured an article, "Millions of Acres Get One Ranger," detailing the enforcement difficulties. It noted that "poachers are believed to be robbing the monument of some of its rare wildlife [although] No one really knows..." Bears, wolves, moose, and sea lions were all thought to be poached in large numbers. [169]

NPS officials were acutely aware of the problem. One regional official noted that

The existing staff ... is not adequate to survey and protect the Monument resources considering the fact that the area is nearly twice the size of Yellowstone. The lack of personnel has become a point of negative discussion among the bush pilots and others familiar with the resources of the Monument... [170]

As the 1960s wore on, the budget allowed occasional overflights of the Katmai backcountry. In early 1967, the enforcement effort was enhanced when two local pilots with the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) agreed to fly patrols for them. In 1969, the number of reconnaissance flights over the monument had risen to thirteen. [171] Contributing to the lack of enforcement, however, was the inability to independently travel into remote areas. Superintendent Gil Blinn, who arrived at the park in 1969, wryly remembered the situation this way:

We would charter airplanes the first few years there, the Peninsula Airways. I always had the disquieting feeling though that as soon as we got in the air the word was out to the guide community that, hey, lay low for a couple of hours [because] the Park Service is out in the park. And their activities were pretty well known. We could never really confront it. We were [also] at a disadvantage because we had to depend on others to provide the transportation to us and so we would go at their convenience rather than when our need was. [172]

Such problems would ameliorate somewhat when the NPS gained the ability to use Office of Aircraft Services equipment, but they would not be overcome until the agency obtained its own airplane.

Creation of McNeil River State Game Sanctuary

Meanwhile, the state of Alaska was taking actions on its own to protect the brown bear. It set its sights on the McNeil River, a bear-laden stream near the northeastern boundary of the monument. McNeil River had jumped out of obscurity in 1954, when the National Geographic Magazine published an article showing photographs of the site. (Cecil Rhode, on contract for the Fish and Wildlife Service, was the writer and photographer. He was careful to avoid naming or locating the site, but even so, word eventually leaked out.) Soon afterward the Alaska Game Commission closed the area to bear hunting. [173] In order to guarantee its management over the area, the state made land selections up and down the river valley between October 1966 and January 1967. A total of 118,429 acres in six townships was chosen. During the ensuing session, the Alaska legislature passed HB 156, to create a 83,600-acre McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. Governor Walter Hickel signed the bill on April 19. McNeil River was the state's second designated sanctuary, the first being Round Island, near Togiak. The refuge was declared a National Natural Landmark in June 1968. [174] Designation of the refuge had little immediate effect on area visitation; in 1969, for instance, officials recorded fewer than ten site visits. [175]

Should Katmai Be Designated a National Park?

During the 1950s and 1960s, officials from both the private and public sector made frequent observations that Katmai should become a national park. Ray Petersen, the new concessioner, may have been first when he declared in the summer of 1950 that "the more I think of it the more I am inclined to agree that this area should be changed to a national park." George Collins, the NPS planner, also thought that Katmai should become a national park. [176] The NPS, as part of its boundary-adjustment program in the mid-1950s, suggested "that national park status ... will be recommended at the appropriate time." [177]

After a decade of operating the Katmai concessions operation, Petersen again suggested the idea of a national park in a conversation with Senator Ernest Gruening, noting that a national park had greater advertising value than a national monument. Gruening wrote to Alaska's Commissioner of Natural Resources about the idea; he, in turn, passed the word on to Governor William A. Egan and the Commissioner of Fish and Game. All rejected any notion of a national park. Some were concerned about the loss of state authority, while others feared the increase of regulations that was bound to accompany a full-fledged national park. [178]

During the 1960s the calls continued to be made for a national park, but most were internally generated. NPS officials lost few opportunities to explain to others, both inside and outside the agency, that Katmai was fully deserving of park status. In March 1961 Mount McKinley's superintendent urged the regional director to consider the idea, [179] and The Advisory Board on National Parks, Buildings, Historic Sites and Monuments, during their 1965 visit, felt that the monument was "worthy of National Park status," and both the 1965 and the 1967 version of the Master Plan Brief hoped "to redesignate the Monument to National Park status at the earliest propitious time." [180] In December 1967, NPS Director George Hartzog declared to Governor Walter Hickel,

We are hopeful that Katmai National Monument will also become a national park some day, as it too warrants such recognition. It is truly one of the great wilderness areas of the world and contains outstanding scientific values also. [181]

Despite the growing recognition that the monument should be considered as a park, no senator or representative brought that idea into the legislative arena. Not on an individual level, at least. During the 1970s, as shall be seen in the following chapter, Katmai became a repeated object of legislative deliberation as part of the larger Alaska lands issue.

Nancarrow, Buskirk, Rogers, Brown, Adams
In June 1950, Willie Nancarrow (second from left), a full-time employee at Mount McKinley, began serving as Katmai's first ranger. He remained until mid-August and returned for a short stint in 1951. The photo, by Steve Buskirk (second from right), was taken at Mount McKinley in October 1975. The other men are Jim Rogers (left), Gary Brown (center), and Tom Adams (right). (File 27-112, DENA Collection)

Katmai's first ranger station
Shown in this photo is Katmai's first ranger station, located at the site of today's Brooks River Campground. The two-room, tent-frame residence remaind until 1956, when a log ranger station (today's visitor contact station) was built. (Victor Cahalane photo, September 1953; NPS Photo Collection, neg. 66-110)

Katmai interpretive brochure

log cache
In 1952, the first Katmai interpretive brochure (left) featured Mount Martin, an intermittently-steaming volcano. On the right is the log cache near the original Brooks Camp ranger station. (File 404 (left) and File 207 (right), both in KNM Box 311, Entry 7, RG 79, NARA SB)

Juhle, Thompson, Lucke, Sanders, Williams, Schiller
In 1953 and 1954, several agencies collaborated on the Katmai Project, which brought a diverse group of scientists to the monument. Shown here, in this August 1953 photo taken by Victor Cahalane at the Kukak Bay cannery, are (front row) Dr. Rolf Werner Juhle (Johns Hopkins University), William F. Thompson (U.S. Army, Office of the Quartermaster General), and Dr. John B. Lucke (University of Connecticut); in the back row are Mr. Sanders, a mechanic,; Mr. Williams, the pilot; and Everett L. Schiller (U.S. Public Health Service). Within weeks after the photo was taken, Dr. Juhle lost his life in Knife Creek, presumably by drowning. (NPS Photo Collection, neg. 66-182)

Schaller, Woods, Cahalane

(top) The Katmai Project continued during the summer of 1954. Shown here, at Knife Creek Camp in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, are George B. Schaller, a University of Alaska biology graduate student; W. S. Woods, the pilot; and NPS biologist Victor Cahalane. In the background is a Piper Pacer on tandem wheels. Cahalane took the photo. (bottom) Robert Luntey, a recreation planner in the NPS's Region Four (San Francisco) office, was the agency's coordinator of the Katmai Project. Cahalane took this photo in September 1953 (with moose antlers) at the west end of Lake Grosvenor, near NCA's Grosvenor Camp concessions operation. (NPS Photo Collection, neg. 12033 (top); NPS Photo Collection, neg. 66-171 (bottom) )

Northern Consolidated Airlines

(top) Northern Consolidated Airlines built Brooks Camp in 1950, and for years afterward it was the primary access route to the monument as well as Katmai's concessioner. This photo, taken in June 1959 shortly after NCA's Cessna T-50 Bushmaster arrived, looks north along the Naknek Lake shore from Brooks Camp. (bottom) In 1952, prodded by Alaska Delegate Bob Bartlett, the NPS commenced a boundary review study. Shown in an aerial photograph taken that year is the village of Kaguyak, along Shelikof Strait. It was probably Lowell Sumner, an NPS biologist, who marked the boundary and other features on the photo. Little evidence of Kaguyak remains today. (Ward Wells Collection #2074-10, AMHA (top); File 602, KNM Box 311, Entry 7, RG 79, NARASB (bottom) )

Melvin, Hartzog, Hummel, Perterson, Witmer

Hartzog, Grosvenor
In August 1965, the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments, visited Katmai as part of its Alaskan tour. The top photo, taken at Brooks Camp, shows (left to right) Frank Melvin (NPS); NPS Director George Hartzog, with a cigar; Ed Hummel (NPS), partially hidden by Hartzog; Ray Peterson (NCA), second from right; and Dick Wittmer, a House Interior commitee staffer, at far right. (The other men are unidentified.) The bottom photo, which was taken at Glacier Bay National Monument a few days earlier, shows Director Hartzog (left) conversing with Advisory Board member Mel Grosvenor (NGS). (Ted Swem Collection (both photos) )


Kuehl, Luntey, Mattes, Breedlove
(top) George Hall served as the Mount McKinley Superintendent (and de facto Katmai chief) from 1967 to 1969; he then served, in Anchorage, as the first General Superintendent of the Alaska Group Office. P. G. Sanchez took this photo in June 1967. (bottom) NPS officials who worked on Katmai issues from the 1940s through the 1970s included Alfred Kuehl (landscape architect), Robert Luntey ( planner), Merrill Mattes (historian, in front), and Bailey O. Breedlove (landscape architect). The photo was taken by Robert Howe in August 1967. (File 27-99, DENA Collection (top); Robert Howe Collection, photo GB 828 (bottom) )

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000