Hiking to the 1942 Alaska Highway bridge over the Slims River

On June 15th, two friends and three of our dogs joined me for a hike to the ruins of the Campman Bridge, built over the Slims River by the US Army Corps of Engineers during construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942.

The hike began at 1:45 on the access road to the Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) East Route. A fairly large parking lot is located at Km 1645.6 of the Alaska Highway, about 2 km from the modern Slims River Bridge. Because of the strong possibility of encountering a grizzly bear, we kept the dogs on leash.

Access road to a Slims River hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Within about 10 minutes, the views across the Slims River valley opened up dramatically.

Slims River valley, Kluane National Park, Yukon
There are some ups and downs, but much of the 3-km-long access road (which is the original Alaska Highway) is level.

Access road to a Slims River hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon
At about the 3 km point, there’s a widening of the road so vehicles can turn around, and the Slims River East trail leads off to the left, up Vulcan Creek. We continued walking straight ahead. We could have driven to this point but the point was to go for a walk.

Access road to a Slims River hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Although not very distinct in the fine silt, we came upon very fresh grizzly tracks. Not a large bear, but a grizzly nonetheless. We followed them for quite distance.

Grizzly prints along the Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
I was very surprised (and very pleased) to find many butterflies along one stretch of the road. I didn’t see what was attracting them to this particular area of a few hundred meters. Among the 4 or 5 species was this little brown one. Environment Yukon’s Yukon Butterflies brochure hasn’t led me to a positive identification, but I think it may be a Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius).

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
When we reached the main channel of small and much-braided Vulcan Creek, the kids were happy to get a drink. Rosie is the only dog I recall seeing who lays in a creek to get a drink 🙂

Dohs getting a drink at Vulcan Creek, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Fifty minutes from the start of the road, we were well into the Slims River valley and the views were wide open. The next photo is a 2-photo panorama with the Alaska Highway and the dust storm at Slims River flats to the right.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Now that we had good sight lines, Tucker, Granite, and Rosie were let off their leashes, and took full advantage of it. They’re all very good at recall.

Slims River valley, Kluane National Park, Yukon
At 2:50 we reached the ruins of the Campman Bridge, which I expect was named after the commander of one of the Corp of Engineers units that built it. This was the first of at least 4 Slims River bridges – it was built here because the natural river channel is much narrower than at the current location a mile or so downriver.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Looking across the Slims River to the bridge ruins on the west side. They can be accessed from the Slims River West trail near Sheep Creek. The bridge was a single lane, with 3 or 4 pullouts to allow vehicles to pass.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
If I remember correctly, the bridge burned in a forest fire in the late 1950s or early ’60s.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
The view to the east, looking up Vulcan Creek. A lengthy gravel ramp led to the bridge on both sides.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
To keep the spectacular views and allow the dogs to stay free, we decided to hike down the Slims River back to the Alaska Highway. By staying to the east we should be able ro stay out of the dust storm.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
We didn’t know what to make of this orange stain in a minor channel of Vulcan Creek. Is it natural, or something flowing from the US Army site from 70 years ago? We’d didn’t see it anywhere else so I unfortunately think it’s the latter.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

I sometimes go for fairly long periods without shooting many detail photos, but the Slims River hike provided lots of subjects. Dried silt in many forms, and plants – it’s fascinating terrain…

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

The kids were having a ball exploring! 🙂

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
As we got closer to the highway and Kluane Lake, the gradient of the river lessened, and there was more variety along the banks.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
This spring came out of nowhere, and had a good flow of clear water.

Natural spring along the Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
A steep bank forced up into the brush for a few hundred meters but the walking was still easy.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Whoops! Adam found that piece of ground wasn’t nearly as solid as it looked.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Sam and I found routes where we didn’t sink into the muck nearly as much 🙂

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
After that, Tucker and I stayed on the high, dry ground for a while.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
We got back to the car at about 4:00. On the drive back to the campground, we stopped at the boat launch to wash off the mud all 6 of us had accumulated.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
The final image is the route as kept by my Garmin inReach Explorer+.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

It had been many years since I’d seen the bridge ruins. This turned to be a great hike.



Comments

Hiking to the 1942 Alaska Highway bridge over the Slims River — 3 Comments

  1. Kids? You call your dogs ‘kids’? A bit overdone.
    Thanks for the pictures.
    Our German shepherd also lies down in pools of water and creeks to drink.

      • AB … obviously your dogs may be “simply” pets to you … but to many of us they are adopted family (a family member that is always there to listen, to comfort, and even defend if necessary), something you evidently have never experienced. Maybe one day you will!