Here are more photos of our late summer camping trip up the Steese Highway. Chilly, but hardly a cloud in the sky…
You’ll see Davidson Ditch, a water pipe built in 1920s, that runs 90 miles along the Steese Highway. It used to bring about 180,000 gallons of water per day to the gold dredges in Fox, Alaska from the Chatanika River.
(Click on the first one and scroll to the right.)
Sitting around our campfire, the northern lights decided to give us a show.
Jack, lovin’ life.
An ember from the fire timed itself perfect for our long shutter speed.
The Steese Highway, one of the less populated camping destinations.
There are several nice roadside memorials on Alaskan highways, but we both agree this is the best one we’ve seen.
It’s only late August, but that means fall up here, about 60 miles north of Fairbanks.
Even farther north at Twelvemile Summit Wayside (about 80 mile Steese).
Probably the best time to drive the Steese Highway, late summer.
State camp, Montana Creek Station (road maintenance station).
Lots of mining on the Steese Highway.
And lots of burnt forest.
Davidson Ditch snakes its way to Fox, Alaska (about 8 miles north of Fairbanks).
Davidson Ditch is practically in this house’s back yard.
Chatanika Lodge, a most important place to visit if you come to Alaska. Tons of interesting stuff in there. About 40 mile Steese Highway.
This is directly across from Chatanika Lodge, a very old mining site with a gold dredge (on the right) that used to float.
You’d think that someone would start small and work up to a 75 pound salmon but Jack does it the opposite way. When coming to Alaska years ago he caught the huge salmon first and then is working down and crossing the small fish off his list as he goes.
This summer he got his first Arctic Grayling. Six to be exact. We kept the first few and cooked them for dinner, but they were a bit mushy and muddy tasting, at least compared to the beautiful trout we’ve been getting. From now on we’ll catch and release grayling.
Recently Fairbanks and the surrounding areas have been getting a lot of rain. So when Jack and I visited the Chena Dam the other day the floodgates had been lowered in order to prevent high water from flowing downstream toward Fairbanks. This results in the river backing up into the reservoir area behind the dam but saves Fairbanks as it has many times since it was built almost 40 years ago.
Dermot Cole of Alaska Dispatch News wrote in 2014 when the floodgates were lowered then that Fairbanks’ “most effective flood insurance policy … takes the form of an unusual dam with four 30-ton gates that operate like giant garage doors, stemming the flow of high water when the river rises. The floodgates are one element in an extensive federal flood control project that cost a quarter-billion dollars by the time of its completion in 1979.”
Click on the first photo and scroll to the right to read the captions.
This is the reservoir (floodway) that is now filled because the floodgates were lowered.
A little bit of green is still above water.
That’s our rig in the parking lot where you can access the top of the levee.
This shows Jack standing on the 7 mile long “Moose Creek Dam,” the levee.
The floodgates are in the top right corner of this map. We were a mile or two away from them on what’s labeled here as the Moose Creek Dam, the long straight levee that leads to the Tanana River. Map from US Army Corps of Engineers.
Here are the floodgates.
Another map, also from the US Army Corps of Engineers website. It shows a more realistic perspective of the whole setup.
On the opposite bank there’s debris that’s been picked out of the water on the other side of the floodgates.
Looking toward Fairbanks.
This is a terrific area with tons of biking/walking trails, boat rentals, a beach, camping, etc. There are day use volunteer hosts who take care of this lovely place.
Not everyone gets to see the floodgates being used on such a beautiful day. We’d be willing to bet that most Fairbanksans haven’t even been here.
From top to bottom they say: “Tanana River 40 miles”, “Yukon River 250 miles” and “Spawning Grounds next 35 miles.” Kings actually run through here as well as chum salmon and you can view them from the floodgates when they finally get here from the ocean each summer. I love the artwork but the salmon look more like silvers and pinks than kings and chum.🙂
Now we’re on the other side of the floodgates looking down to the reservoir.
Volunteers maintain this area for wildlife, cutting hay, putting up nest boxes, burning to keep the brush low.
Not all of the hay got moved before the flood.
The sign shows the high water mark which was in 1992, the only time overflow water made it all the way to the Tanana River.
This is the side of the Chena River floodgates where water is building up and you can see tons of debris that has to be picked out by the crane. They sometimes offer it to the public for firewood.
This dam handles water coming from 1500 square miles of drainage.
According to adn.com, Fairbanks used to flood every 5th spring or so and this was actually desired so that barges could make it farther upstream. Fairbanks was founded by PT Barnette when he was stranded because of low water and a year later he struck gold.
At the end of a walkway that juts into the floodway someone has placed a beautiful memorial bench to someone named Joyce.
For more info: a slideshow on the Army Corp website and this pamphlet for a little more in depth information.
Jack and I had an amazing moose experience in Healy a few days ago. Otto Lake is moose haven. We saw at least 6 moose in a 24 hour period. Here is a photo story of a cow moose and her two babies, and her yearling that she is trying to shoo away. Be sure to click on the first one and scroll to the right to see how it all went down.
The cow moose on the right chased the smaller one, her yearling, away. He doesn’t look too scared but she charged at him several times.
Casually sipping water. The lake is very shallow.
Does he not look just terribly devastated here?!?!? It’s really a sad sight.
She came back several times.
She’s looking back at him but seemed also to be preoccupied.
She heads back the other way.
You can see how close she is to our camper!
And now we know why she was shooing the yearling away! She’s got two calves to take care of.
She keeps trying to scare him away.
One baby ventures out.
But rushes back to the shore.
Then both of them wade into the marshy grass to nibble.
Then they come back toward us, walking along the shore.
Looks like a kangaroo face to us.
What a cute little bugger.
Here comes Mom getting in my shot.
And they follow her.
Trying to keep up.
Before they walk down the hiking trail (aka game trail) Mom stops to nibble.
Looks like they want to nurse.
You can see how very skinny the mother is. It’s no doubt that she needs to constantly eat to keep up her ability to nurse and take care of her babies. Her yearling just doesn’t have a place in this family anymore.
They were very alert but not scared at all by us.
Sometimes it seems like they made the same general movements but it could be that the smaller one, on the left, is copying the larger and more assertive one.
They nuzzle noses and do a lot of other movements that remind you of horses.
They are a lot to take care of, and a lot to trip over.
This was Jack’s first heavy haul load. He wasn’t actually part of the a heavy haul division yet but obviously it was a landmark load for him.
You can see the partially melted snow and the dry road. We are almost to that point in the year right now, and you can probably believe that it is an exciting time for us Alaskans who have snow 8 or 9 months of the year!