Sahlin Falls, Sheep Bay

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Sahlin Falls, Sheep Bay

by | Dec 13, 2019

Sahlin Falls is a waterfall of Sahlin Creek on the northern shore of Sheep Bay, 13 miles (21 km) northwest of Cordova, and 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Valdez, Alaska. The local name was first reported in 1933 by the U.S. Forest Service and named for Julius Sahlin who operated a sawmill at the mouth of this creek starting in 1918.

The Copper and Northwestern Railway connected the copper mines at Kennecott to the shipping terminal at Cordova from 1911 to 1938. Construction of the railway took 3 years and $23,000,000 and was completed on March 29, 1911. About 15% of the 196 miles (315 km) of track was on bridges and trestles with 129 bridges in the first 131 miles (211 km). The demand for wood during construction and afterwards for maintenance was enormous since all the bridges, trestles, and railroad ties were made from timbers.

A railroad tie is a rectangular support, traditionally made of wood, usually laid perpendicular to hold the steel rails upright and spaced to the correct width. Ties are generally about 19 inches (48 cm) apart and over 650,000 were needed to support the Copper River and Northwestern Railway between Cordova and Kennecott. Wooden railway ties are constantly in need of replacement since they are prone to damage from fire, rot, splitting, insect infestation, damage to the tie caused by lateral motion of the tie plate, and spike-pull. Wooden trestle bridges are also relatively short lived and the demand for timbers would usually result in the clear cutting of nearby forests. The Chugach National Forest was established in 1907 and extended from the Copper River to the Kenai Peninsula and included all of Prince William Sound. During the years of operation of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, several small sawmills supplied the needs of the railway by extracting available timber from Prince William Sound watersheds. Usually the mills were on barges that could be moved but in some cases, such as at Sahlin Creek, the mills were built on land. Read more here and here. Explore more of Sahlin Creek here:

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