A view of the Cooper Landing Bridge is shown in this July 1936 photo.
Photo by Bob Hall
On the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC, in the Alaska Life section of The Anchorage Times, a picture of CCC workers building a 120 foot long wooden bridge across the Kenai River in mid-Cooper Landing was featured. Construction of this bridge was one of several CCC projects in the Cooper Landing area. Melvin Rogers was foreman of the project which was completed in early 1935. The bridge crossed from Bean Creek Road to between Frank and Hazle Towle's home and Jack Lean's store.
Residents of Kenai and the Seward Chamber of Commerce applied to the U. S. Forest Service in 1916 for a road. Their efforts were endorsed by a letter from the Governor of Alaska Thomas Riggs. The Forest Supervisor's report of Feb. 5, 1917, included the following information regarding this request.
"The main highway on Kenai Peninsula extends from Seward on Resurrection Bay to Hope, on Turnagain Arm, touching head of Kenai Lake and upper Quartz Creek valley at Moose Pass. This project is to connect the main highway with lower part of Kenai Lake and Kenai River...
...The road will have its greatest usefulness in serving settlers in the Quartz Creek valley and at foot of Kenai Lake, as it is planned to make this project a link in the system of roads and trails to cover the entire Kenai Peninsula from Chickaloon to Kachemak Bay."
Charlie Lean was the one man Cooper Landing road crew in 1936 as described in an article in The Seward Gateway, Dec. 12. "Unaided and equipped with truck, shovel and mattock, Charlie Lean foreman of the Kenai river road extending seven miles down the Kenai river from Riddiford (Cooper's Landing), has graveled in excess of one mile of roadway, widened it to allow automobiles to pass at any point, and given the road the stamp of excellence characteristic of B.P.R. projects." This was made possible by the CCC built bridge.
In 1935, the few vehicles in Cooper Landing could be driven to the Russian River area, to Hope on the old wagon road and to the Moose Pass area. Motorists in Moose Pass could catch the train to Seward. The "Missing Link" section of the road to Seward was completed in 1938, the road to Soldotna was drivable conditions permitting in 1948, and the highway to Anchorage was opened in October of 1951.
The CCC bridge was replaced by a bridge opened upstream in Feb. 1950. That bridge broke up during the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and fell to the river bed. A temporary, one-lane bridge was used for a year until the current bridge was opened in 1965.
This column was written by Mona Painter with the Cooper Landing Historical Society.
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