File photo/Peninsula Clarion In this May 27, 2010 file photo drift boat anglers get underway at the public launch just above the Sterling Highway bridge on the Kasilof River. State Parks officials are still working to find a final location for a state-funded boat retrieval on the river.

Kasilof boat retrieval site to close for summer

Drift boaters on the Kasilof River will have to wait a little longer for a public boat retrieval site to open on the lower river.

The Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation owns a piece of property on the Kasilof River around river mile 3.75, commonly known as Trujillo’s Landing. The prior private owners had allowed drifters to take out their boats there, and the state purchased the land with the intent of establishing a formal retrieval site there.

However, the department has chosen to leave it closed this year. It was mainly safety concerns on the property that led the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation to close the retrieval site for at least this year, said Jack Blackwell, the regional superintendent for the division.

“The previous retrieval site was basically a cable system that was attached to a vehicle and boat, and the boat was towed up the bank,” Blackwell said. “The state has some concerns, safety concerns about that system that was used.”

Earlier in 2015, the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation purchased two adjacent properties on the north bank of the Kasilof River known as the Trujillo property and the Kimbrough property.

The department does plan to start a public process later this spring for input on the design of the property. For now, the gates will be closed and boaters will not be able to use it to haul out.

The discussions for the boat takeout site have been going on for about eight years. The Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation originally identified the site in a 2008 feasibility study and had multiple public meetings and surveys in the years that followed. The funding has already been appropriated, Blackwell said.

“The Trujillo property will remain closed this season as we begin our environmental cleanup of the property and start a site plan for the site,” Blackwell said.

The lower Kasilof River is only open to drift-boats for fishing, though boats can have a small motor — 10 horsepower or less — onboard for the purpose of exiting the river. The majority of users utilize the lower river, downstream of the Kasilof Bridge, and many of them supported the Trujillo property as a retrieval site, according to a 2011 survey from the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation.

The department is not set on how long the closure will be, but it will last at least a year, Blackwell said.

“We certainly recognize that this is an inconvenience for the public, and we’re working as fast as we can on it,” Blackwell said.

Most boaters currently access the river from the launch near the Kasilof Bridge and float down the river, but there are no publicly owned exit points for boaters on the lower river. There is one other site, located at the Kasilof River Lodge & Cabins at approximately river mile 1.75. Other than that, boaters can float all the way down to the mouth of the river.

Steve Maltby, the owner of Kasilof River Lodge & Cabins, said the lodge has had experience with being the only take-out on the river before. The landing at Trujillo’s was closed for a few years in the past, so the lodge and river users got used to working with one take-out, he said.

“Basically what’s happening now is that the guides self-regulate,” Maltby said. “They know that if they just saw five boats go down the river, they might as well stay and fish a little longer than go wait in line.”

Traffic on the river has been more manageable because of tightened king salmon fishing restrictions, so the lodge’s retrieval system can handle the traffic, he said. The lodge has a rigorous safety practice: An aircraft cable with a tensile strength of 13,400 pounds is inspected daily by Maltby, who is a trained engineer, or one of his staff, with a logbook on hand. The cable is replaced monthly to avoid any consequence of corrosion. The lodge has never had a safety incident with the cable system, Maltby said.

The one thing that will change is the hours of operation. In the past, the take-out has been open for 24 hours; this year, they are experimenting with being open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Maltby said. The lodge’s retrieval system will open May 10, and the cost to pull out is $25, the same as the price has been at Trujillo’s, he said.

Maltby said every guide who regularly fishes the river has pulled out at the Kasilof River Lodge & Cabins at least once, so he knows most of the regulars on the river. Anyone with concerns can call the lodge at 262-6348, he said.

“We’ll be open so everyone can come float the river and fish and guides can make their living,” Maltby said.

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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