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Cooper Landing

Posted: Tuesday, November 09, 2004

On Oct. 21, 1934, a letter was written to the Regional Forester in Juneau with a report on the Cooper Landing Truck Trail.

As it turns out, what I brought with me to Texas in preparation for this column was two copies of the same page of the letter. But there's some good stuff here.

Things weren't going real well 70 years ago. The foreman I'll find his name next week wrote: "We have had a wonderful fall here so far and believe me we need it.

"With all the breakdowns with the cat, (and) the slowness of delivery in the spring we had to have some compensating factor.

"But now the old junk heap is virtually broke in two in the middle right in front of the driver's seat.

"To cap it off my Elto motor went all to pieces and (is) not worth fixing up and Bill McDonald was shipped a bunch of wrong parts for the Johnson so it couldn't be fixed up right away, but it never rains but what it pours.

"I had some lumber I was going to (use to) make a toolshed and cat shed for the winter at the winter camp and so diverted it to Quartz Creek and put up a temporary shack to pull the ... pieces under,

"I borrowed a couple of screw jacks from the B.P.R. and the chain blocks you sent were sure handy. I sent Frank Towle after the part today to bring it to Seward to weld and maybe we can still get some of this good weather to use yet. With the exception of a few small spots the road is finished as far as we can go from Quartz Creek to the foot of the Rock bluff along the lake toward Cooper Landing. There would only be about 1 mile more grading and roughing. ...

"That's the awfullest piece of junk a man ever tried to put up with. (T)here is hardly a day that something isn't haywire or going haywire. But it sure has been worked as long as it did hold together.

"I don't know for sure just what the outcome of this breakdown will be whether we can complete the project or not, it depends on whether we can get the machine running within the next week and whether the weather holds off for a few weeks or not.

"(A)nyway we will give it a good trip and she will have to be froze solid before we quit.

"Those log culverts are the things that take time but they are about all in now.

"There are a few small fills to make on the road that can be made if the weather hold(s) out, but it will all be nearly done when we have to quit grading. They are finishing the winter camp now and cutting piling and etc. for the bridges. ..."

(He may have been referring to Quartz Creek and Crescent Creek bridges. )

"The rock bluff along the lake toward Cooper Landing is across the highway from the Sunrise Inn and toward the west. Cooper Landing, in those days, was the area around Towles and Leans. The bridge across the Kenai to beside Jack Lean's store on the south side was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the direction of Cecil Rhode's cousin, Clarence Rhode. The bridge was finished in 1935.

"Road Building Carried On By Man And Truck," from the Seward Daily Gateway's Dec. 12, 1936, issue brings us to the next chapter of road building: "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 road connects with the new Quartz creek-Moose Pass road by bridge at Cooper's Landing and will eventually become a link in the Seward-Moose Pass-Kenai highway, to Cook Inlet. This will afford motor cars opportunity to motor direct to a point opposite the mouth of Russian river, the fishing paradise of Alaska, and the place where the Prince of Alaskan HostsLou Bishopholds out. ..."

When we return to the story of roads, we'll move on to the Missing Link, Riddiford, Lou Bishop and the cry for a road to Homer.

595-1248

E-mail: painter@arctic.net



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