We're so sorry, don't hike Albert

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 13:11
<font face="serif"><em>Popular hiking trail has been shut down each fall since the late ‘90s</em></font face="serif">
Salmon mill about in a pool visible from the Rodak Loop trail near the Eagle River Nature Center.

Out of bear necessity, the Eagle River Nature Center’s Albert Loop Trail has once again been closed for the duration of the fall.

Chugach Sate Parks chief ranger Matt Wedeking said rangers have made the decision to close the trail annually every year since the last person was attacked there in 1998.

“As soon as we start seeing the salmon make it that far up we pretty much close it down at that time,” he said.

According to accounts in the Star, three maulings on the trail in the late 90s – including one in August, 1998 in which a bear charged two Eagle River residents, scratching one — led to what has now essentially become a seasonal closure of the loop.

The three-mile trail crisscrosses prime salmon spawning areas in the Eagle River Valley and is an annual feeding ground for the area’s healthy bear population. Nature center naturalist Doris Ivory said bear activity around the center hasn’t been any busier than normal this summer.

“We’ve seen them off and on throughout the summer,” Ivory said.

Wedeking said the Albert Loop trail includes viewing platforms and beaver dams that brown and black bears use to fish from. To have people out walking around out there, he said, is just a bad idea.

“It’s not really a good place to get trapped,” he said.

Ivory said salmon are now present in areas around the center, and just because the Albert Loop is closed doesn’t mean folks can’t get a look at the large schools of fish.

“People can still see the fish from our Rodak trail,” she said.

The shorter Rodak trail is closer to the center and a less likely place for bears to be present.

On a recent outing to the Rodak’s salmon viewing platform, former Chugiak resident Jennifer Anderson, along with her dad, Jesse Roberts, and her six children, watched as hundreds of salmon slowly swam in the clear waters below. Now living in Idaho, Anderson said she wanted her kids to visit the center as part of the grand tour of her hometown.

“We’re running them ragged,” she said.

Ivory said the Albert Loop, which is also used in the winter for cross country skiing, will remain closed until park rangers are sure that the bears have turned in for their winter siestas.

“That will be until the snow flies and we see no more bear tracks,” she said.

Ivory said the closure does not include the Dew Mound or Crow Pass Trails, which also begin at the center.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]

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