A look into the past: Building the second Soldotna bridge

Posted: Sunday, June 09, 2002

This 1965 photo by William Allen looks north toward what is downtown Soldotna from the south bank of the Kenai River. The first Soldotna Bridge has been moved off its original foundation and set up as a temporary bridge while the new bridge is being built.

Some say the original truss bridge was moved to the Anchor River where it still serves on the old Sterling Highway, while others say it was moved (presumably by barge) to a private holding in British Columbia.

In 1947, the original bridge location was selected by Ralph Soberg and A.F. (Gil) Ghiglione who took a small skiff up the Kenai River and found this location to be both straight (less erosion) and relatively narrow (250 feet). The truss bridge was built in 1948 and was marked by the tragic loss of one of the workers, Doc MacDonald. Soberg and MacDonald were up on the structure trying to get a heavy plate suspended on a cable to slide into place. MacDonald was holding onto the cable when it unexpectedly slipped causing him to lose his balance and he fell into the river. He surfaced once, but his heavy tool belt pulled him down into the cold, swirling water and he drowned. His body was found three days later.

In his book, "Bridging Alaska," Ralph Soberg states the bridge should be named after Doc MacDonald. A third "MacDonald" bridge is to be built this summer.

This text was written by Marge Mullen and Alan Boraas. Some of it is from "Bridging Alaska," by Ralph Soberg. The photograph is part of the photograph archives of the Anthropology Lab at Kenai Peninsula College.

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