Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

Exploring the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area: Cooper Creek


Location:    Mile 50.5 Sterling Highway. Pull into Cooper Creek Campground or Sackett’s Grill

Short Description:      The hillside at this sight is half way eroded and gone.  This is a result of using giants to remove the overburden from placer deposits. A walk up toward the base of the hill will provide lessons to the long term impacts of this mining technique.

Required Equipment: None

Suggested Equipment: None

Safety Consideration: Brown bear, moose habitat

Other Info: Campground has toilet facilities. Nice area along creek for lunch or a rest. Plenty of room to wander. However this area is frequented by brown bear.

Inquiry Prompts:  What’s Going On Here?


The hillside can be viewed from Sackett’s Grill or a short distance from the highway into Cooper Creek Campground.

Ask students to take a look around for any hints of mining activity. This one isn’t so subtle, however, it may at first be confused with a road cut or some other kind of disturbance.

This area used giants (which can be seen at the Cooper Landing Museum and also at Hope) to remove the overburden from the placer gold bearing layer. If you’ve been to the Resurrection Creek area this will provide an opportunity to compare the two areas.

Water for the giants was provided by a flume which originated upstream in Cooper Creek. These flumes caused the build up of pressure which in turn blasted away the hillside.

Viewing this one can also see the long term downside of this strategy. This area has been heavily impacted with silt. Take a moment to access the strategies that the forest service is taking to keep the silt from entering the Kenai River.

It’s a good time to discuss how silt issues compromise salmon habitat— particularly in the productivity of the redds— the aquatic “nests” where the eggs are deposited.