Flood recedes from Williamsport-Pile Bay portage route

Jun 20, 2018

Fishermen are antsy at Williamsport as floodwaters covering the one-lane road halted portage to Bristol Bay. KDLG's Austin Fast spoke with the company hauling all those boats over the mountain on Wednesday.

Five feet of water covered the one-lane road between Williamsport and Pile Bay at the Iliamna River by Monday.
Credit Iliamna Transportation Company

The steep mountain road from Williamsport to Pile Bay has reopened after five feet of floodwater from the Iliamna River stopped traffic on Sunday. 

The 15-mile-long route allows portage from Cook Inlet to Iliamna Lake to cut off the voyage around the 500-mile-long Alaska Peninsula.

Nearly 30 fishing boats bound for Bristol Bay were stuck waiting for portage at Williamsport until the water receded Tuesday night, according to Ray Williams of the Iliamna Transportation Company. He added that more fishermen were waiting out the flood in Homer.

"Patience level is getting kind of thin on some of the gentlemen. Getting close to fishing time and they’re hearing about openers down in the bay," Williams said. "We’re doing the best that we can with what we’ve been dealt here. We’re trying to get everybody across as quick and safe as we can. It’s just a matter of wait your turn, and we’ll get our trailers under you and away we go!"

They can only haul four boats a day on one tide since the tides on the Cook Inlet have been getting smaller, Williams said. He hopes to start hauling on both tides by Monday, but that all depends on the weather.

The river floods at least once yearly, Williams said, but usually not right at peak travel time. Wet conditions and muddy roads may be stretching the trek out to nearly two hours, but he said safety comes first.

"We've been doing this 80 years with no problems, and we want to keep it that way!" Williams said.

Contact the author at austin@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.