The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is in the process of replacing a decommissioned pedestrian and ATV bridge over Cottonwood Creek at the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge near Wasilla. The existing bridge has been condemned due to safety concerns and will no longer be available for public use. These concerns stem from structural issues related to corrosion and vandalism. Funds from a legislative Capital Improvement Project and a federal aid Wildlife Restoration Grant have been secured to replace the bridge.
While the area will remain open to a variety of activities, users will not be able to cross the creek at the traditional location until the bridge is replaced. At this time, the Department does not have a project completion date and we anticipate traditional access to this area for spring bird watching, summer sport fishing, and fall waterfowl hunting will be disrupted. However, we are exploring options for a temporary structure which may accommodate limited access in the interim.
In conjunction with the bridge replacement, the Department is seeking additional funds to address and mitigate habitat impacts from all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use on the area’s wetlands. Potential solutions may involve rerouting the ATV trail to less sensitive areas.
The Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge encompasses approximately 45 square miles of freshwater, brackish and saltwater wetlands, forest, lakes, tidal sloughs and mudflats in Upper Cook Inlet. The refuge was established to “protect and preserve the natural habitat and game populations” of the area and it provides important habitat for tens-of-thousands of migratory waterbirds including ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds and sandhill cranes. It also provides habitat for large numbers of muskrats, moose, bears and other wildlife; and for five species of Pacific salmon and other fish. The refuge provides varied opportunities for outdoor activities and is popular for fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, photography, nature study, hiking, skiing, canoeing, boating and other activities.
The Cottonwood Creek area provides access to one of the primary freshwater wetland complexes in the refuge and encompasses approximately ten square miles of mostly open water habitat. Facilities at the site include an access road, several parking areas, a vault toilet, uplands hiking trails, a covered overlook shelter, interpretive panels, the decommissioned bridge over Cottonwood Creek and the trailhead for a 7-mile long wetlands trail along Palmer Slough. The bridge has been used by thousands of visitors engaged in sport fishing activity during the summer salmon fishery, fall waterfowl hunting and by many other refuge users.