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The Rise of Black Rapids

By Mike Hopper (with apologies to Clement C. Moore)

You’ve driven by it a bunch of times…It’s down there south of Delta on the Richardson, just as the mountains start getting really good…that old Roadhouse that’s slowly sinking into the dirt? Most of the windows are busted out but if you squint just a little you can imagine flowers in that little sunroom off the front. If you’ve been around awhile, why, you can remember having drinks at the bar, watching a Piper Cub out the window standing still in the air as it tried in vain to fly south. You do remember, don’t you? The Black Rapids Roadhouse?

So, maybe it’s been a while since you were down that way. Let me describe it to you: The Black Rapids Roadhouse was first established in 1902 at the beginning of the Gold Rush and is one of the last remaining original roadhouses on the historic Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, now known as the Richardson Highway. Located 38 miles south of Delta, the old Roadhouse still stands alone on the windswept bank of the Delta River, keeping a lonely vigil over the Galloping Glacier of Black Rapids that in the 1930s threatened to overwhelm her. To stop if even for a moment at Black Rapids is to be humbled by the rugged wilderness that surrounds her, and the effort it took to make this small stand on the passage through it.
Well, the Rapids is Rising!

The new owners of Black Rapids, Michael and Ann Hopper of Fairbanks and Rich Landon of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, are happy to announce that the Black Rapids Roadhouse Restoration Project began in the summer of 2002. Recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Roadhouse became available for restoration funds from the state department of History and Archaeology. An initial grant of $50,000 from the State of Alaska Department of History and Archeology at the state’s Department of Natural Resources funds the initial clean up of the historic site, disassembly of some of the log structure for future restoration, and stabilization of the original two-story structure. With the aid of future donations and grants, the owners plan eventually to restore the original Roadhouse completely and make it available to the public as a summer roadside museum, Alaskan art gallery, and gift shop.

Restoration efforts began in June of 2002. On June 23, we held the first volunteer work crew party. We have been carefully disassembling the long, single story log structure and storing usable logs for reconstruction. An opening ceremony/birthday party for the roadhouse was held to christen these beginning efforts. The Armed Forces Eco Challenge was staged out of the Black Rapids Lodge site from June 20th to 24th. The Armed Forces Eco Challenge is a qualifying event for the world famous Eco Challenge scheduled for New Zealand later in 2002.

We are also still recruiting volunteers for future restoration work, so contact us if you are interested!

Oh, and one other thing: You know that bluff above the Roadhouse? Construction began up there in summer of 2002 on the new Black Rapids Lodge. In addition to saving a piece of Alaska’s pioneer past, the owners are committed to creating a new tradition of affordable hospitality at the gateway of this most accessible, wild mountain wilderness. The two-story timber-frame Lodge is off the drawing board and has begun its vigil for the next hundred years. Visit the New Lodge photos section of our site to view photos of the New Lodge being built.

For more information, call Annie and Michael Hopper at (907) 388-8391.
The Roadhouse is lonely no more.