Agencies Announce Partial Opening of River and Areas

September 9, 2019

CORRECTION: See updated release on September 10, 2019.

Agencies Open Areas to the Public for Recreation Access

Effective 12:01am on Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks announces the reopening of a portion of the Upper Kenai River previously closed to support firefighting operations. As of 12:01am on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 the Kenai River between the state boat launch at the Cooper Landing bridge and Jim’s Landing will reopen to public use with the exception of the continued closure of a channel on the south side of the river from approximately River Mile 69.5 to River Mile 71.5 will also be closed to support firefighting activity.  The previous daytime limitation on this river use has also been removed, allowing for 24 hour public use.

The U.S. Forest Service Chugach National Forest is opening the Russian River Campground, Russian Lake Trail, Russian River Falls, Barber Cabin, and the K’Beq Day Use Area for public use. This opening will occur at the same time as the Kenai River reopening: 12:01am on September 10, 2019. Although this area has not been directly affected by fire, stay aware of the firefighting personnel and equipment still active on roads and lands nearby. Visit the Chugach National Forest website https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/chugach/home for details.    

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is opening the following areas to limited use as of 12:01am on September 10, 2019: Jim’s Landing for day use of the boat launch, the overflow parking lot north of the Sterling Highway at the Visitor Contact Station, and Lower Skilak Boat Launch for boat launch access.  The Kenai River remains closed beyond Jim’s Landing to Skilak Lake for public safety and in support of firefighting efforts.  All boats must exit the river at Jim’s Landing. On the west side of Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, Lower Skilak campground and day use facility remains closed to public use. Skilak Lake Road from the west entrance at mp 75.2 of Sterling Highway will be opened to allow access to the Lower Skilak boat launch but all lands off the road, trailheads including Marsh Lake and Day Use facilities including Bottenintnin Lake remain closed.  Additionally all refuge lands that have been burned are closed to public access. Consult the attached closure order for more details.

This reopening of some portions of the Kenai River, Chugach National Forest and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge includes some areas that were burned by the Swan Lake Fire.  Hazards exist in these burned areas that can be hard to see.  Standing trees can be weakened as the fire burns the organic duff layer surrounding their roots. Very light wind or just shifting soils can cause these trees to fall without warning.  The fire has burned very deep in some places, leaving ash pits behind.  What appears to be solid ground can be empty space still holding heat that is able to cause severe burns.  No Refuge lands, trails or day use areas are reopened for visitor use beyond these two boat launches.  Avoid these burned areas until fire crews have been able to evaluate them for your safety.

Although fire danger has decreased over much of the Kenai Peninsula, residents and visitors should remain aware and prepared. More information, detailed maps, and public safety information can be found online at kpboem.com or by visiting the official website for Chugach National Forest (https://www.fs.usda.gov/chugach/) and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (kenai.fws.gov). For statewide fire information, visit the AICC website at https://fire.ak.blm.gov/ or http://www.akfireinfo.com.

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