New Alaska park bridge aimed at limiting bear encounters

National
Travel-Trip-Alaska-Katmai Bears

FILE – In this July 4, 2013, file photo, a brown bear walks to a sandbar to eat a salmon it had just caught at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. The National Park Service has completed a project to relieve an Alaska traffic jam. A new elevated bridge and boardwalk across the Brooks River in Katmai National Park and Preserve is expected to halt heart-stopping encounters between human pedestrians and brown bears both using the old bridge. (AP File Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The National Park Service has completed a project to relieve an Alaska traffic jam.

A new elevated bridge and boardwalk across the Brooks River in Katmai National Park and Preserve has replaced a river-level bridge that was often closed to human tourists because it was occupied by locals — brown bears.

The replacement for the old floating bridge was more than a decade in the making.

“Each phase of the project (planning, designing, project development, funding, and construction) took time and involved diverse stakeholder groups,” said park Superintendent Mark Sturm in an email response to questions.

Bears catching salmon are a huge draw for the park on the Alaska Peninsula, the arm of land extending from Alaska’s southwest corner toward the Aleutian Islands. The park service estimates that 2,200 brown bears inhabit the park, a number exceeding the people who live on the peninsula. They have six to eight months to eat a year’s worth of food and ensure their survival through winter, according to the agency.

A popular venue is Brooks Camp, where the park has three bear-viewing platforms. One is at a waterfall where fish concentrate before trying to leap past the barrier and hungry bears to reach natal streams to spawn.

Visitors must cross the river to reach all three platforms. The old bridge frequently closed when there was a “bear jam,” said Park Service spokeswoman Karen Garthwait.

Rangers enforce a 50-yard (46-meter) separation between bears and people. If a bear was on the bridge or close to it in the river, rangers would close the bridge until the bear moved, Garthwait said by email.

Bears were not shooed away, Garthwait said. A Park Service mandate to preserve bears’ natural feeding areas and behavior gave bears the right of way.

The new bridge is 1,200 feet (366 meters) long and varies in height from 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters), depending on topography, Garthwait said, allowing bears to pass below. The cost was $5.6 million. The bridge features bear-proof gates on both ends.

Salmon begin arriving in June. Dominant bears take over choice fishing spots. Cubs are vulnerable to be killed and eaten by big males.

The most bears typically are seen along the river in mid-July, according to the Park Service. In August, fish are not as concentrated and bears disperse. However, after salmon spawn, weaken and die, bears return in high numbers in September. Bears at that time catch dead and dying fish in the slower-moving lower river, according to the agency.

The new bridge will give visitors an additional platform on which to watch wildlife.

The Park Service plans a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the bridge on June 29.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Clear

Abbeville

32°F Clear Feels like 24°
Wind
10 mph N
Humidity
60%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few passing clouds, otherwise generally clear. Record low temperatures expected. Low near 25F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.
24°F A few passing clouds, otherwise generally clear. Record low temperatures expected. Low near 25F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.
Wind
12 mph NNE
Precip
0%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Full
Clear

Crowley

34°F Clear Feels like 25°
Wind
13 mph NNE
Humidity
59%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Clear to partly cloudy. Record low temperatures expected. Low near 25F. Winds NNE at 10 to 20 mph.
24°F Clear to partly cloudy. Record low temperatures expected. Low near 25F. Winds NNE at 10 to 20 mph.
Wind
12 mph NNE
Precip
0%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Full
Clear

Opelousas

31°F Clear Feels like 21°
Wind
12 mph NNE
Humidity
58%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few clouds. Record low temperatures expected. Low 24F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
24°F A few clouds. Record low temperatures expected. Low 24F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
Wind
12 mph NNE
Precip
0%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Full
Clear

Breaux Bridge

33°F Clear Feels like 22°
Wind
18 mph NNE
Humidity
64%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few passing clouds. Record low temperatures expected. Low near 25F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
24°F A few passing clouds. Record low temperatures expected. Low near 25F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
Wind
12 mph NNE
Precip
0%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Full
Clear

New Iberia

33°F Clear Feels like 23°
Wind
16 mph N
Humidity
72%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few clouds from time to time. Low 34F. Winds light and variable.
26°F A few clouds from time to time. Low 34F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
7 mph NE
Precip
0%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Full

Sidebar

Trending Stories