Legacy of the Gold Rush:
An Administrative History of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
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Chapter 10:
The White Pass Trail Unit

As noted in Chapter 1, the Skagway River valley was the site of several gold rush-era transportation routes. Captain William Moore and Skookum Jim, in June 1887, were the first recorded people to cross White Pass, and the first prospectors to ascend the valley were a group of Californians who passed through in February 1895. No trail existed, however, until workers from the Alaska and Northwest Territories Trading Company completed the task during the winter of 1896-1897. The "Trail of 1897" meandered up the west side of the valley to a site just downstream from the confluence of the Skagway River and the White Pass fork; it then crossed to the east side of the White Pass fork and crossed the top of White Pass approximately one mile east of the south end of Summit Lake. [1]

The trail was used only sporadically during the first half of 1897. Klondike-bound traffic, however, totally overwhelmed the route, and it quickly became known as the notorious Dead Horse Trail. By the winter of 1898 travelers had abandoned the route. Some headed up the frozen riverbed, while others utilized the Brackett Wagon Road, which was being constructed up the east side of the valley. By April 1898, the wagon road had been completed to White Pass City and a new sled trail connected the road terminus to the top of White Pass. (The new trail summit was located at the south end of Summit Lake.) Two months later, construction began on the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad. By late summer, stampeders were riding along on a four-mile stretch of track; by February 1899, the tracks had reached the top of the pass; and by July 1899, railroad passengers could ride from Skagway all the way to the shore of Bennett Lake.

Soon after the railroad was completed to the top of the pass, traffic on competing routes slowed to a trickle, and within a few years the other routes had been abandoned. When government officials, sixty years later, began to consider the area for inclusion in the national park system, they were well aware of the valley's historical importance. They also knew about the history of the railroad, the Brackett Wagon Road, and the ghost town of White Pass City. No one, however, was certain where most of the gold rush trails lay, and few if any knew whether tangible cultural resources still remained in association with those trails.

As noted in Chapter 4, the agency's formulation of the park master plan and the outlining of its boundaries took place at the same time that the City of Skagway and the State of Alaska were pushing for a road between Skagway and Carcross. NPS planners were careful to avoid antagonizing the city and state over the road issue; agency planners, in fact, supported the construction of a road up the west side of the valley because it would provide an excellent access point to the valley's historical sites. State historical officials had warned them, however, that the proposed highway was in the same right-of-way as "much of the trail between Skagway and White Pass City" and that "there exists no feasible and prudent alternative to this route." NPS officials knew that two major gold rush-era cultural resources--the Brackett Wagon Road and the as-yet-unidentified right-of-way of the White Pass Trail--extended south from White Pass City all the way to Skagway. They recognized, however, that if the proposed park boundaries were extended south (or west) to include any portion of the proposed highway route, the agency would have to follow the regulations promulgated by Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. [2] In order to avoid controversy, therefore, NPS planners decided to exclude the lower Skagway Valley from the proposed park.

When Congress authorized the park, one of the four units it created was the 3,320-acre White Pass Unit. Slightly more than half of the unit had been part of the Tongass National Forest since February 16, 1909; that acreage lay either east of the White Pass Fork or, south of its confluence with the Skagway River, east of the Skagway River. The remainder of the unit was Bureau of Land Management land. On June 24, 1961, however, the State of Alaska had selected the parcel as part of the same large selection that had also included most of the BLM's holdings in the Chilkoot Trail Unit of the park. Then, on June 25, 1974, the BLM tentatively approved the transfer of the BLM land to the state. As a result of the 1974 action, the parcel was still officially owned by the Bureau of Land Management, but the State of Alaska exerted de facto control. Neither the Forest Service nor the state showed any immediate interest in divesting management authority for its parcels. As a result, the NPS--temporarily, at least--was unable to manage any land in the park's White Pass Unit.

Early Development Plans

During the planning period which preceded the passage of the park bill, NPS officials proposed several research, recreational, and interpretive objectives for the unit. In the park master plan, the agency proposed to

Restore the upper portions of the trail, with access at points along the road, when it is completed.

Provide campsites, standard signs, and interpretive markers, in cooperation with the Canadians.

Protect ruins at White Pass City, and collect and preserve artifacts.

Restore a portion of the Brackett Wagon Road below White Pass City.

Continue planning studies with Canada for the future development and interpretation of the White Pass summit area, and for the possible continuation of the trails to Lake Bennett, Atlin, and Ben-My-Chree.

Seek the cooperation of officials of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in preserving and interpreting the historical qualities of their railroad properties.

Cooperate with the State of Alaska and the Forest Service in the development of the potential recreational uses of lands adjacent to the historical park.

Seek the cooperation of the Federal Highway Administration and the Alaska Department of Highways in designing and locating the highway into the Yukon ... so that scenic overlooks and access to White Pass City and the historic trails can be developed. [3]

The park's Final Environmental Statement, issued in 1974, recommended most of the same actions as in the master plan. In addition, it recommended access paths to the historic trail from the railroad as well as the new highway. It also recommended the restoration of portions of the White Pass Trail as well as the Brackett Wagon Road. [4]

The primary development proposed for the unit was a trail that would enter the southwestern end of the unit from the highway. The trail would continue east, using a portion of the Brackett Wagon Road, to the site of White Pass City, where a proposed camping and interpretive area would be located. The trail would then climb north up the valley of the White Pass Fork, presumably along a gold rush-era pathway, to the top of White Pass, where a campground, shelter, and interpretive area would be located. The trail would then continue north into Canada, paralleling the eastern shore of Summit Lake. NPS officials espoused the proposed trail because it promised to be both shorter and less rigorous than the climb over Chilkoot Pass, and opined that "the White Pass Trail could become a very popular attraction for families and individuals who have only a few days to spend in the area." [5]

Richard Hoffman, the park's first superintendent, recognized that the development of the White Pass Unit would be a long, potentially expensive process. He also recognized that the NPS had no management authority in the White Pass Unit, and he similarly knew that both the Skagway Historic District and the Chilkoot Trail Unit received far more visitors than the White Pass Unit. (The NPS did not consider WP&YR passengers to be visitors to the unit.) Even so, Hoffman pushed ahead with development plans. By January 1978, he was bullish about development prospects. In a letter to Regional Director Russell Dickenson, focusing on the park's need for a chief ranger, he noted that

Next summer [1978] we will be providing ... some visitor services and protection in the White Pass Unit, as the road will be open then. We hope to expand our interpretation program in Skagway and perhaps on the Bennett train tour. [6]

His plans, however, were more visionary than existing budgets or staff levels would allow. The agency had higher spending priorities at the park, and it was wary about building a trail into a historic area in which the extent and value of cultural resources were as yet untabulated. As Historical Architect Gary Higgins noted, "The White Pass unit is comparatively undisturbed, relatively inaccessible, and will remain undeveloped pending thorough survey." [7]

Hoffman recognized that his highest priority was to gain management authority over the unit. He gained authority over the state-controlled portion of the unit on April 6, 1978 when, as noted in chapters 8 and 9, the NPS and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources signed a cooperative agreement covering state lands in the Chilkoot Trail and White Pass units of the park.

The park superintendent reacted to the agreement by assuming a broad managerial control over public lands in the Skagway area. One provision of the agreement, for example, noted that "The Service has the capability of providing facility maintenance, site and visitor protection, and other related management activities in the Skagway area." Based on that provision, the NPS that summer began maintaining the state's Liarsville wayside, which was located along the Klondike Highway, one-half mile north of the Dyea Road junction. The NPS continued to maintain Liarsville until 1980, when it refused to provide further work there; thereafter, the state abandoned the site. [8]

Proposed Energy Projects

No sooner had the cooperative agreement been signed than Skagway, and the Park Service's White Pass Unit, found itself in the middle of a major oil and gas development proposal.

A decade before, in January 1968, the Atlantic-Richfield Company had announced that it had made a major oil strike in the vicinity of Prudhoe Bay, on Alaska's north slope. During the boom that followed, geologists revealed that vast deposits existed of both oil and natural gas. The natural gas was ignored for the time being because developers were unsure as to its commercial possibilities. But by 1972, two companies were competing for the right to transport the gas to Lower 48 destinations. One company proposed hauling liquified gas on tankers from Valdez to West Coast ports; the other proposed a pipeline up the Mackenzie River valley in Northwest Territories, Canada. Neither of these pipeline routes, if built, would have had a significant economic impact on Skagway. [9]

On September 8, 1977, President Jimmy Carter awarded a contract for construction of the gas pipeline to the Northwest Alaska Pipeline Company. The company announced its intention to follow a route that paralleled the Alaska Highway. Skagway, which stood to be a major supplier of pipeline materials, exulted in the decision. Klondike Superintendent Richard Hoffman noted that "there is considerable excitement here.... The talk around town is definitely boom oriented." The park was impacted by the decision. The agency, during this period, was purchasing historic properties in the Skagway historic district, and the excitement that resulted dramatically (if temporarily) increased land values. [10]

Skagway residents heard little about the proposed pipeline for the next several months. But in late May 1978, excitement in Skagway erupted again with the announcement that Foothills Oil Pipeline Ltd. of Canada (which was working in conjunction with the Northwest Alaska Pipeline Company) had been selected to construct a gas line--and possibly an oil line as well--from Delta Junction (along the existing North Slope pipeline) to Edmonton, Alberta. The principal route, as noted above, would follow the Alaska Highway. But an alternate route would bring the fuel from the North Slope to Valdez, after which tankers would haul it to Skagway. The fuel would then go by pipeline over White Pass to Johnson's Crossing, Yukon Territory, and on to Edmonton for eventual distribution to the midwestern United States. [11]

For the next several months, the proposed Alaska Highway Oil Pipeline Project remained in the news. The sponsoring companies made no secret that the Alaska Highway route was their first choice, despite being more expensive than the route via Skagway. The state, meanwhile, issued a report dubious of the prospects of the Skagway-area pipeline. (One state official said that the project stood "about as much chance of approval as a snowball in hell.") Meanwhile, company representatives investigated the economic viability of constructing each of the various pipeline routes. [12]

On February 20, 1979, Northwest Alaska Pipeline Company representatives held a public meeting on the project in Skagway. They announced at that time that if the Skagway alternate were approved, the company would adopt the White Pass and Yukon Route as a partner in the venture. More important to the Park Service, Northwest proposed the construction of a pipeline following the railroad right-of-way. [13]

Hoffman, who attended the meeting, opposed the company's plans. In a letter to Regional Director Dickenson, he discussed White Pass City, the park's proposals there, and the site's relation to the proposed pipeline route. "Considering that they will need a 90 foot level construction right of way," he wrote, "it does not seem possible to avoid obliterating most of the Brackett Road and Trail of '98 with materials blasted from the canyon walls." He urged that an alternate route, which followed the newly-completed Klondike Highway, be considered. [14]

Although NPS officials had serious reservations about the project, 63 percent of Skagway residents (according to a poll taken in March 1979) supported it. They did so because development would have made the town a major oil port. [15]

On March 20, the Bureau of Land Management held a hearing in Skagway about the Northern Tier Pipeline System, which included the proposed Alaska Highway Oil Pipeline Project. More than 80 people attended the meeting, a majority of which supported Foothills' proposal. An NPS representative who attended the meeting urged that the locations of the proposed utility lines be changed so as not to ruin the historical character of the railroad, the Brackett Wagon Road, the Trail of '97, and White Pass City. [16]

Following the hearing, the Skagway City Council passed a resolution endorsing the pipeline. Soon afterward, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau also endorsed the route. In late March, a three-man team conducted an archeological and paleontological survey of the proposed U.S. portion of the route. The NPS, meanwhile, continued to exert pressure to move the location of the proposed pipeline away from the railroad right-of-way, and by mid-May a BLM official had assured the agency that the WP&YR route was no longer being considered. [17]

Local residents remained optimistic until August 10, 1979, when Foothills Pipeline officials announced in Ottawa that they had decided in favor of a pipeline along the Alaska Highway rather than one through White Pass. Locals, predictably, were saddened by the decision, but they still recognized that the construction of an Alaska Highway pipeline would increase Skagway's importance as a supply point. Prospects for the pipeline, however, diminished during the months which followed. By 1981, there appeared to be little chance that the pipeline would be constructed, and a year later, a state official flatly predicted that the pipeline would never be built. [18] The project remains on the drawing boards.

Soon after the decision was made to not build a White Pass area pipeline, officials began to consider another energy project that would impact the Skagway Valley and its resources. As noted in Chapter 8, the idea of a hydroelectric dam in the Skagway area had begun in 1979 when a consulting company, CH2M Hill, surveyed various potential power sites in southeastern Alaska. That study revealed that Goat Lake, above Pitchfork Falls, was one of several promising sites in the Haines and Skagway areas. Following that study was a new feasibility study, by R. W. Beck Associates of Seattle. The Beck study, which was released in draft form in late 1980, showed that West Creek, near Dyea, was the area's most economically-favorable energy development site. Goat Lake, for the time being, was ignored. But in April 1981 Beck completed its study, and Alaska Power Administration officials announced that proposed facilities at West Creek, Goat Lake, and Upper Chilkoot Lake were "the only projects that have the capability of serving the total [power] load in Haines and Skagway on a year round basis." APA officials estimated that a West Creek operation would cost $31.6 million, while a facility at Goat Lake would cost $51 million. The Upper Chilkoot site promised to be even more expensive. [19] Following the completion of the Beck study, the APA sponsored a more detailed feasibility study of the West Creek site. That study, as well, showed that the West Creek site was "financially, geologically, and environmentally superior" to either Goat Lake or Upper Chilkoot Lake as a hydroelectric site. Goat Lake, for the time being, was dropped from consideration. [20]

Archeological and Interpretive Concerns

Having gained assurance from the BLM that the Skagway-to-Whitehorse pipeline would not be built through the White Pass Unit, the NPS contracted with Caroline Carley in 1979 to identify and evaluate the area's cultural resources. Carley's survey of the White Pass Unit was part of the same survey that also included Dyea and the Chilkoot Trail corridor. (See chapters 8 and 9.) She and her two-person crew were able to spend relatively little time investigating White Pass Unit sites. Even so, they were able to locate 58 features in old White Pass City. They also located more than five miles of the Brackett Wagon Road and found numerous features associated with it. The team investigated a final site outside of the park boundaries. This site, called Porcupine Hill, was located just north of the confluence of the Skagway River and Porcupine Creek; it contained nine features which were undoubtedly historic, including a standing log cabin. Carley was unable, however, to date the site with any precision. [21]

Complementing Carley's investigations into the White Pass unit were the historical efforts of Charles Konopa and Kathy Maurich, who wrote a short history of the White Pass Trail. Konopa and Maurich were employees at the park's Seattle unit; their report was taken largely from Edwin Bearss's 1970 historic resource study and from the sources which Bearss had investigated. [22]

Shortly after Carley and the Klondike-Seattle workers completed their investigations, the park moved to install interpretive signs along the Klondike Highway. As noted in Chapter 4, NPS had told state highway officials as early as January 1974 that they wanted to have a turnout and trailhead located along the mile-long stretch of highway that paralleled the western edge of the park unit. [23] That turnout would overlook the site of White Pass City, and by the summer of 1975 the NPS had decided to include an interpretive signpost there that would include the history of White Pass City. [24] The NPS intended, at this time, to have only one interpretive location along the Skagway-Carcross road.

Those plans changed soon afterwards. In 1976, William Ingersoll wrote an interpretive prospectus that suggested the placement of interpretive material at two locations: at the White Pass City overlook and on the summit of White Pass. By early 1978 the road was nearing completion, and Superintendent Richard Hoffman reacted by ordering two sets of signs. From the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, he ordered a large interpretive sign to be placed on White Pass Summit as well as a park welcoming sign to be placed closer to town. It addition, he requested special funding from the agency's Denver Service Center for historical interpretation. [25] A year later, DSC had produced and funded a wayside exhibit package that called for markers at two sites along the highway. Appropriate text and photographs were selected, and in May 1979 the agency contracted with Don Knapett and Associates to construct the signs. They were completed as scheduled, and in mid-June 1980, NPS contractors installed six markers. One set of three signs was located on a turnout between Black Lake and Porcupine Creek, while the other was installed along the western boundary of the White Pass Unit. The interpretive signs ordered from the Bureau of Prisons were completed but never installed, and they were eventually destroyed. [26]

The agency also moved to provide historical interpretation to the tens of thousands of travelers who passed through the unit each year via White Pass and Yukon Route tourist trains. Prior to the authorization of the park, the only interpretation that passengers had received was oral commentary from conductors and other railroad personnel. In addition, signs were placed at Black Cross Rock (Mile 10.4), where two construction workers lost their lives; Inspiration Point (Mile 17.0), where "Packer Jack" Newman installed a plaque in 1929 to honor the horses of the White Pass Trail; and a "Trail of '98" sign, along the old trail at Mile 19.0. In order to provide additional interpretation, the NPS offered to place interpreters on the trains. Union officials rebuffed that overture; the railroad, however, responded by funding a pamphlet extolling the historical aspects of the route. In order to augment the interpretive program, the NPS in 1982 offered to supply the railroad with additional historical material and publish its own interpretive brochure. It also offered to fund the creation and installation of historical markers at locations where the train stopped. [27]

The railroad chose not to accept the NPS's offers. Instead, it hired a group of seasonal interpreters (high school students in the HOST program) to ride the various tourist trains. The practice proved successful. It abruptly ended, however, in the fall of 1982 when the railroad ceased operations. For the next five years, virtually no tourists entered the White Pass Unit. [28]

Ownership and Management Issues

As noted above, the NPS had gained management control over the western half of the White Pass Unit in April 1978 when it signed a cooperative agreement with the State of Alaska. The eastern half remained under the management of the Tongass National Forest for another two years. Finally, on November 26, 1980, the U.S. Forest Service formally transferred the parcel to the NPS. [29] Four years after the park was authorized, the Park Service finally had management authority over the entire unit.

Before long, however, outside forces began to threaten the agency's newly-won authority. As noted in chapters 8 and 9, local residents had been largely dissatisfied with the actions of NPS officials following the release of the park Land Acquisition Plan in April 1980, and relations between the city and park had remained poor for the following year. The visits of Deputy Regional Director Douglas Warnock and Regional Director John Cook, both in March 1981, helped improve relations. Before relations could be patched up, however, a movement was organized to reduce the park's boundaries. At the March 26, 1981 public meeting which John Cook attended, city councilman Marvin P. Taylor, citing conflicts over the proposed West Creek hydroelectric project, suggested that the Chilkoot Trail Unit be reduced. That suggestion reportedly won the "unanimous approval of those in attendance." Five months later, on September 3, Taylor brought the matter to the Skagway City Council. The resolution called for the elimination of the Chilkoot Trail Unit except for a 100-foot strip surrounding the trail. In addition, Taylor urged for good measure that the White Pass Unit be eliminated. [30] That proposal, as noted in chapters 8 and 9, was forwarded to the Alaska Congressional delegation. None of the three members, however, acted on it.

Given that reprieve, the NPS was free to manage the area as it wished. In December 1979, the park applied for the funds necessary to develop the White Pass Trail and an adjacent campground. [31] That request, however, was low on the priority list and it was not approved. Richard Sims, who succeeded Richard Hoffman as superintendent, had little enthusiasm for developing the unit and recognized that Skagway rehabilitation projects and Chilkoot Trail resource protection activities needed to be completed before projects in the White Pass could be considered.

By the time the draft Resource Management Plan was completed in early 1982, the park's attitude toward the unit had become clear. The document noted that the 1973 master plan had called for trail construction and campground development. The RMP, by contrast, recommended that

Development within the unit should be kept to an absolute minimum until additional funds become available for trail development, maintenance, interpretive exhibits and additional protection personnel.... Considering the existing level of visitor use, Alternative E [which recommended the continuation of present, passive management activities] provides adequate protection for resources and is recommended. [32]

In 1984, the NPS lost its authority to manage almost half of the land in the White Pass Unit. As noted in chapters 8 and 9, the NPS and the State of Alaska meted out a Memorandum of Understanding that February. That MOU retained the NPS's right to administer the state's land in the White Pass Unit. But an April public meeting held in Skagway to present the plan's details provoked so much protest that officials agreed to renew the pact. In the negotiations that followed, the NPS agreed to cede control over the White Pass Unit. Hunting was a key component of the controversy, and it was local hunters who demanded relief from the NPS's hunting regulations that brought pressure to withdraw the White Pass Unit from the MOU. In November 1984, state and federal officials signed a revised MOU. That document did not include the White Pass within its provisions. Since then, the NPS has lacked management authority over the western half of the White Pass Unit. [33]

Since 1984, the agency has continued to passively manage the White Pass Unit. City officials, from time to time, have asked the NPS to fund improvements in the area. However, they have been quick to agree that the rehabilitation of Skagway buildings takes precedence over any White Pass Unit projects. The NPS, for its part, has shown little motivation to improve the area. Factors contributing to the agency's attitude are its inability to manage almost half the area, and its recognition that the area's cultural resources would be jeopardized if increased visitation preceded a thorough cultural resources survey. [34]

Managing the Unit's Historical Resources

In 1986, the NPS moved to further protect the historical resources located within the White Pass Unit by updating the National Historical Landmark (NHL) nomination that pertained to it. As chapter 3 has noted, NPS historian Charles Snell had visited the Skagway area in July 1961. On the basis of that visit, which appears not to have included a train ride to the top of White Pass, he nominated all of the Skagway Valley--from Skagway Bay to the top of White Pass, and from mountain crest to mountain crest--as a National Historic Landmark. Others agreed with him, and on June 13, 1962, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall declared the Skagway Historic District and White Pass a National Historic Landmark.

Four years after Udall's action, the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 (see Chapter 7) demanded that each NHL contain a justifiable boundary. In order to comply with the terms of the act, attempts to discern a boundary were made in 1974 and early 1983, but little headway was made. Work on an updated NHL lapsed until August 1983, when the NPS hired a seasonal architect to photograph Skagway buildings. Those efforts were followed by those of Regional Historical Architect David Snow, who provided brief architectural descriptions of each Skagway building. Then, in early 1986, Robert Spude assigned Frank Norris and Terrence Cole to update the old Skagway-White Pass NHL form. (Norris wrote the description statement and miscellaneous sections, while Cole completed a significance statement.) The completed nomination, which was forwarded to the regional office in November 1986, featured a much-reduced area of significance north of Skagway. Instead of crest-to-crest coverage, the areas deemed significant were limited to the known rights-of-way of the Trail of 1897, the Brackett Wagon Road, the sled road extension, the WP&YR railroad, and former trail towns and section-house sites. The revised nomination, completed in rough draft form in 1986, has not yet--almost a decade later--been finalized. [35]

A related project that was approved more expeditiously was a National Register nomination for the park as a whole. In September 1986, NPS historian Robert Spude contracted with Glenda Choate of Skagway-based Alaska Archives and Records Management to have the nomination completed; Choate, in turn, assigned the writing task to Frank Norris, who began work on the project that November. Norris modified information that had been previously gathered for the Skagway-White Pass NHL and the Dyea-Chilkoot Trail NHL (see Chapter 8); inasmuch as the entire park was included in the boundaries of the two NHLs, no additional research was necessary. The form was completed on July 9, 1987 and forwarded to Washington. After agency review, it was amended by Bonnie Houston and resubmitted in June 1990, where it was accepted by the Keeper of the National Register on February 26, 1991. [36]

In addition to the above nomination, there have been two attempts to add structures in the White Pass Unit to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1987, the NPS wrote a White Pass and Yukon Route and Canol II nomination related to World War II-era railroad and pipeline impacts. This nomination was rejected by the National Park System Advisory Board at its April 9, 1987 meeting. Four years later, in January 1991, Karen Swanson-Iwamoto of the U.S. Forest Service wrote a National Register nomination for the WP&YR railroad, the Canol Pipeline, and the adjacent telecommunication line in conjunction with the railroad's plans to realign its track near Milepost 4. Five months later, Iwamoto followed up her nomination with a report supplying additional information about the pipeline and telephone line. Later that year, these structures were determined to be eligible to the NRHP. Having ascertained their eligibility, she took no further action regarding the nomination. [37]

In order to augment the meager amount of historical resource data, two NPS personnel undertook a series of informal exploratory hikes during the summer of 1986. Seasonal ranger Mark Bollinger and seasonal historian Frank Norris investigated the slope west of Black Lake and located a segment of the Trail of 1897. They conducted two hikes in the Porcupine Hill area, above the existing border station, but found little. Finally, the pair hiked to a point a mile east of the White Pass railroad summit and located the Trail of 1897; from that point, they followed the trail south until it was lost in the vegetation. Detours were also made to The Ford, a gold rush-era trail camp, and to the Brackett Wagon Road. The pair identified and photographed a number of objects and produced a brief report of their investigations. [38]

A year later, the University of Alaska Press published The White Pass, Gateway to the Klondike, by Roy Minter. The long-awaited book, which focused on the construction of the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, was the result of years of research by the former WP&YR official. The book, hailed by academics as well as the popular press, was not sponsored by the NPS; even so, it was the first book to discuss the development of the various gold rush-era transportation routes since the 1970 release of Edwin Bearss's Historic Resource Study of the park. [39]

Development and Preservation Projects

As noted above, the Alaska Power Administration during the early 1980s had considered the idea of constructing a hydroelectric facility at Goat Lake, above Pitchfork Falls. The idea, however, was put on hold because West Creek was considered a superior site. In July 1991, however, Skagway's power company, Alaska Power and Telephone, revived the idea, noting that the project "could produce enough electricity to end Skagway's dependence on diesel generated power in the winter." The company that month received a temporary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that allowed it to begin preliminary feasibility studies, and in September the company announced its interest in the project. Company officials disclosed that engineering and environmental studies for the $5 million project would commence immediately, and that the project would be completed within five years. [40]

The project involved the construction of an intake siphon and pump house at the south end of Goat Lake. From there, an enclosed penstock would carry water downslope, just north of Pitchfork Falls, to a substation and powerhouse that would be located between the WP&YR railroad and the Skagway River and approximately one mile south of Pitchfork Falls. From that point, electrical transmission lines would lead west to the Klondike Highway, then south to Skagway.

The company held a public hearing about the project on October 29, 1991. The U.S. Forest Service, on whose land the project lay, expressed concern about how the project would impact the area's goat population, the fishing resource, and the historic Brackett Wagon road. Local citizens, although broadly supportive of the project, expressed concerns as well. Because the White Pass Unit of the park lay more than a mile north of the project, the NPS played a secondary role in the public review process. The agency was, however, the administrator of the National Historic Landmark program; in that role, they expressed their concerns regarding how the project might impact the Brackett Wagon Road, the Trail of 1897, and other historic resources in the area. [41]

For the next two years, AP&T proceeded with its background studies. Then, on May 27, 1994, the company filed an application with the FERC for a license to construct and operate a 4-megawatt project. [42] A year later, in mid-June 1995, public meetings were held on the project in Skagway and Juneau; then, on May 22, 1996, the FERC and the U.S. Forest Service issued a Final Environmental Assessment which included the FERC's approval for the project. AP&T officials were told that they would have a hydropower license within two months. Stan Selmer, the company's local general manager, expressed confidence that preliminary work on the project would begin in the fall of 1996 and that the project would be completed in 1997. [43]

While development plans were proceeding for the Goat Lake project, others were planning to preserve areas within the Skagway River basin. On October 18, 1993, two representatives of Lynn Canal Conservation, a Haines-based environmental group, held an organizational meeting in Skagway in an attempt to elicit support for proposed additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The two representatives, Michael Van Note and Eric Holley, hoped that Skagway residents would support the nomination of both the East Fork and the main stem of the Skagway River. Both of the nominated areas would be located upstream from the railroad bridges that crossed them. Van Note and Holley were particularly enthusiastic about protecting the upper Skagway River because it was one of the few streams in southeastern Alaska that flowed through alpine terrain. [44] The proposed areas were located on Tongass National Forest land; the NPS had no jurisdiction over either one.

City officials, at first, were noncommittal about the LCC proposal. At a November 18 city council meeting, however, they rejected it as unworkable. One representative felt that it might prevent the railroad from maintaining its right-of-way; another was worried that the action might foreclose the area as a future water supply site; another expressed a philosophical bias against governmental intervention in the area. Because of the city's lack of support, the river is not being actively considered for eligibility to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. [45]

White Pass City

(top) At the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, White Pass City was a crowded, bustling camp at the northern end of the Brackett Wagon Road. This photo looks north toward the summit of White Pass from near the confluence of the Skagway River and the White Pass Fork. (bottom) By 1979, all of the buildings in White Pass City had collapsed. As noted in a survey headed by archeologist Caroline Carley, the remaining artifacts were limited to cabin or tent foundations and household paraphernalia. (KLGO SC #1233 (top); David Cohen photo, KLGO SC #1333 (bottom))

WP&YR Locomotive #73

Goat Lake hydroelectric project
(left) In 1982, the WP&YR restored and began operating long-dormant Locomotive #73 through the White Pass Unit. Shown (top, l-r) are Ernie Kelm and Jim Richards, and (bottom, l-r) Mike Colyer, Joe Kasler, J. D. True, and Larry Sullivan. (right) Plans for the Goat Lake hydroelectric project have been active since 1991. This photo was taken at the lake's outflow, looking northeast. (Skagway News, August 25, 1982, 3 (left) and July 14, 1995, 5 (right))

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000