The Fact of the Matter Is…
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities
- Is it true that the Salmon River bridge once wiped out, leaving everyone & everything on the west side of the bridge stranded?
- Yes. In late October and early November 1948, high tides, relentless rains and ferocious storms, over-spilled riverbanks and along with massive erosion, took out about half of Salmon River’s bridge structure, stranding all residents and services on the west side.
Because the important radio range towers for the airport were located on that side of the river, a CAA truck had been left on the west end of the bridge when it became apparent the bridge was endangered. Even at that, the first CAA repairman (who lived at the CAA base at the airport) had to cross the dangerous, swirling waters on a seat strung on a bridge wire – carrying phone and power equipment to keep the range tower in operation.
As soon as the waters receded, the residents had to resort to rowing small boats back and forth all winter long with their mail and supplies, sometimes under extremely treacherous, icy conditions.
It was an especially trying time for everyone concerned as the Gustavus dock had just earlier been “condemned” by Glacier Bay Monument officials (a story of its own) and freight was having to be unloaded out in the open winter waters – dangerous for man and resulting in some costly loss of goods.
Finally, the Civil Aeronautics Authority began repairing the bridge, but found that it was so badly damaged it essentially had to be rebuilt.
Homesteader Glen Parker assisted with his “tread” tractor and land pile driver. The last planks were laid in late April 1949, a full 6 months after the bridge had been wiped out.
Copyright 2006 Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)