As temperatures rise in Talkeetna, the Susitna River is running high and taking out part of the bank.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough closed the popular Denali view point at the end of main street due to erosion; the nearby trail that used to follow the riverbank has been swallowed by the water in the past few days.

“It’s acting as a little hydro ax and eroding all of this bank away,” said code compliance officer Pam Ness.

She was at the river on Thursday to survey the damage and said the conditions worsened overnight.

“All of these trees that you see in the water, they were all upright yesterday,” Ness pointed out.

Erosion and flooding aren’t new problems for Talkeenta.

Water from the Susitna and Talkeetna rivers damaged the dike in 2012. The borough was finally able to make repairs with federal money in 2017 and Ness said those funds were specifically earmarked for that project.

Fixing this latest erosion issue is more challenging because of the river’s changing conditions. The Mat-Su Borough is working with the Alaska District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remedy the problem.

“You’re going to have to actually sit down and model this and look at the flows and how high the water is and look at the channel changes and migration and figure out a plan that’s going to work, not only today, but if we’re going to throw a bunch of money at it, then it should work down the road,” Ness said.

Celisse Stephens owns Alaska Sweet Dreams cabins along the river and has had a front row view of the damage.

“When we bought the property in 2011 you couldn’t see the river at all. You didn’t even know the river was there between us and the river was so many trees,” she said.

On Friday, the river was running near flood stage and taking more of the land with it. There’s a revetment between their property and the river but Stephens is concerned it won’t hold up.

 “We could be scared but, I mean, what can we do? The river is going to do what it wants to do. We’re just hoping that the Borough will come in and put in a new revetment and protect the town,” Stephens said.

With the main access to the view point closed, many people walked up A Street to get a shot of Denali. There’s also a lookout point at the dike, but Ness urges people to stay far back from the bank.

Casey Ressler wit the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau said he hoped those access points would stay open for tourists.

“Everybody wants to see the mountain, it’s only out about 30-percent of the time anyway, so on days like this when you get a shot of the mountain it’s important to have a nice little recreational area to come down,” he said.

Ness asks tourists and locals to obey the closure signs until the water in the slough goes down and an alternate trail gets put in.

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