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Outdoors/Adventure

Early Kenai River king run projected at 6,500 salmon

Les Anderson’s 1985 king salmon from the Kenai River weighed in at 97 pounds, 4 ounces, a rod-and-reel world record.  (Ronnie Chappell / ADN archive 1985)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting the Kenai River will see an early run of 6,500 king salmon this year.

That number is within state biologists' optimum escapement goal of 3,900 to 6,600 kings.

Last year, the bigger late king run — from July 1 through late August — totaled 22,535 salmon, slightly fewer than the previous year but a whopping 34 percent more than 2014. The fish were counted by a sonar positioned at river mile 8.6.

Kings will start heading upstream within the next month (remember, the late Les Anderson caught the 97-pound world record in the Kenai on May 17). Regulations for the river below Skilak Lake call for:

*No bait, only single-hook artificial lures;

*Bag limit of one king 20-36 inches.

*Kings more than 36 inches may not be removed from the water and must be released.

*A five-king seasonal limit from all Cook Inlet drainage waters for fish more than 20 inches long, with only two of them from the Kenai River.

Fee hike planned for Klondike national park

Alaska's most-popular national park — by far — will get a bit more expensive if a proposed boost in fees are adopted.

Fee increases proposed for Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Skagway are projected to climb $5 to $20 for adults and $2.50 to $10 for youth. The park had 912,350 visitors in 2016, boosted by boatloads of cruise ship tourists. Denali National Park, the second-most-visited park, had 587,400.

A public comment session on the proposal will be the topic of a 5 p.m. session May 15 at the Skagway Traditional Council building.

Revenue generated from overnight permit fees will be used to improve trail conditions and enhance facilities, according the National Park Service. The U.S. portion of the Chilkoot Trail has not had an increase in permit fees since 2008. "We are committed to keeping the Chilkoot hiker experience affordable, and we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience," Superintendent Mike Tranel said in a press release.

Tranel said recreation fees have enabled the park to complete projects such as the replacement of older traditional pit toilets with newly designed and more environmentally sound and sustainable moldering composting toilet systems. Recreation fees also provide for periodic replacement of warming shelter covers and deteriorating camp amenities such as wood stoves and bear-proof food lockers.

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a strong economic engine for Skagway, with nearly 1 million visitors a year contributing to the local economy.

The National Park Service will determine follow-up actions based on public comments received.

Mountains to the east of Denali National Park provide a rugged backdrop to the easternmost miles of the Denali Park Road on Feb. 17, 2015. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Denali Park road open to Mile 30

The Denali Park Road has opened for travel by private vehicles to the Teklanika Rest Area at Mile 30.

Snow plows reached Mile 65 of the 92-mile road earlier this week. "We made it over the top of Highway Pass, where we encountered drifts up to 10 feet and a consistent depth of 6 feet on the road and 8 feet in the ditches," the Denali National Park website reported.

"Stony Flat had 4 to 6 feet of snow and, much to our surprise, Stony Cut was not drifted in. We made it through in 20 minutes. It usually takes us a solid day if not more."

The Murie Science and Learning Center at Mile 1.3 on the park road is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for visitor information and backcountry permits.

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