Casefile Summary
RST 230
Bielenberg Trail
I. Trail Location
The Bielenberg Trail Originates at A Point On Portage Creek Road
Approximately 1 Mile Southeast of Circle Hot Springs. the Trail
Heads Southeastward, Crossing Birch Creek and Thanksgiving Creek,
Then Proceeds Eastward and Connects With RST #226, Woodchopper-Coal
Creek, An Improved Dirt Road Connecting Woodchopper and Coal Creeks.
The Locaton of the Trail, Based On Historical Evidence, Has Been
Mapped By DNR, Division of Land Personnel, On USGS 1:63,360 Circle
B-1 and B-2, and On Charley River B-5 and B-6 Quadrangle Maps. the
Route Is Approximately 40 Miles Long.
Ii. Historic Documentation
The Bielenberg Trail Was Historically Used for Mining Access and
As A Freighting Route.
Documentation of Use and Construction, Includes:
Alaska Road Commission:
Memorandum, William J. Niemi, Chief Engineer, To F.E.
Baxter, 4/25/52, Concerning Proposed Roads Not in Six-Year
Program, Mentions the "Circle Hot Springs-Woodchopper Creek"
Route, Listing Its Length As 50 Miles, and Describing It "From
Circle Hot Springs Along the North Slope of the Mountains To
Woodchopper Creek; Thence Down the Creek To the Yukon River;"
1. Jerry Rivard Statement, 5/16/85, States "I Was at
Circle Hot Springs in the Thirties-- When Phil Brail Came in From
Woodchopper With A Cat To Get Some Parts for Dr. Patty....Walter
Roman and I Had Used the Bielenberg Trail To Go To and From Saw
Creek A Couple of Years Before....Ted Matthews Had Ordered the
Cat, I Believe. I Can'T Think of the Young Man's Name. He Had A
Crippled Arm--I Told Them About the Trail--It Could Have Been
1948--I'M Not Sure. He Used the Trail and Made It in 14 Hours--I
2. Gordon Bertoson Statement, 2/5/85 (Notarized), States:
"There Has Been A Trail To Woodchoper Creek From the Circle Hot
Springs for Over 50 Years That I Know of and Was Used By Miners
With Horse Drawen Wagon and Sled and Dog Teams Before the Steese
Highway Was Built. Later Years the Miners at Wood Choper and
Coal Ck. Used Tractors and Sleds To Get There Equipment In. I
Traveled the Trail in the Early 30's and Agian in the 60'S. It
Is A Long Existing Trail (Sic)";
3. Frank P. Young Statement, 1/29/85, States: "I Made A
Trip From Circle Hot Springs To Woodchopper and On Over To
Charley River. To Start, I Followed the Old Trail To the Head of
Buck Creek and Then Over the Flats To Coal Creek. the Trail Was
Very Clear, Used By Many Oldtimers (Sic), Such As Miners and
Trappers. I Made This Trip, As Near As, I Can Recall in the Fall
Of 1939";
4. Anders H. Bergson Statement, 1/29/85, States: "I Have
Been On the Bielenburg Trail As Early As 1934. It Was at That
Time A Foot Trail Or Sled Trail. I Remember Being On A Hunting
Trip With Fred Wiley in the Fall of 1934. We Meet (Sic) Phil
Berail Coming From Woodchopper and Heading for Circle Hot
5. Oscar Budlie Statement, 12/15/84: "...About 1931 Or
1932, Macdonald Wanted To Scout Out the Yeskin Valley for the
International Highway and As Frank Nask Wanted To See This. They
Made Up A Party With Dr. Patty Who Was Looking for A Road To Coal
And Woodchopper Creeks Where He Was Buying Mining Claims for His
Mining Venture....We Left Circle Hot Springs--Probably in March
Or April. There Was A Good Trail, Broke Be Use That Winter.
Jerry Rivard Was Trapping Up There at the Time. It Was A Good
Trail, Probably Five Or Six Feet Wide. As You Went Along With A
Heavy Load, You Sometimes Had To Cut An Overhanging Tree. the
Dogs Would Clip Right Along, Ten Or Twelve Miles Per Day. I
Don'T Remember Whether We Siwashed Out Or Not. the Trail Was
Well Used and It Looked Like It Was Well Established By Use at
That Time (Sic)";
6. Stanley Gelvin Statement, 11/2/84: "I Understand That A
Charles Bielenberg Had A Cabin On the Birch Creek East of Circle
Hot Springs. He Trapped and Prospected On A Creek That Enters
The Bench Near His Cabin Which Was Known As Bielenberg Creek.
This Was A Long Time Ago, Probably in the Teens Or Twenties.
There Are the Remains of A Barn and A Cabin Hooked Back To Back
So He Must Have Had Horses. There Was Evidence of Leather As If
There Was Horses....Hawk (Mortin) Told Me That He Built the Cabin
In 1934." Gelvin Goes On To Describe the Widening of the Trail
From A Narrow Horse Trail To A Tractor Trail When Dr. Patty Ran
An Old Caterpillar Tractor Over It in the Thirties;
7. Joe Vogler Statement, 10/16/84, Describes A Trip Made
Into the Woodchopper Creek Area From Circle in 1968 and 1969. in
1968 the Party Had To Turn Back, But They Completed Moving the
Equipment To Woodchopper Creek the Following Year;
8. Walter Roman Statement, 7/9/83: "I Had Heard People
Talk About Bielenburg Trails in 1933 at Central and the Circle
Hot Springs....The Mining Company Sent Phil Brahil and Another
Man With A Cat and Had To Pick Up the Idelar (Sic) John Palm
Had....Phil Followed the Bielenburg (Sic) Trail From Woodchopper
Cr. To Circle Hot Springs Using the Old Trail....The Trappers and
Prospectors Used the Old Trail Quite Often. I Used the Trail in
About 1959 and 1960." Roman Goes On To Describe Those Trips;
9. Doris L. Vogler Affidavit, 7/6/83: "In 1968, My Husband
Joseph E. Vogler, His Brother Dwerl and His Wife Marge and Their
Son Fred Vogler Left Ketchem Creek Near Central for Woodchopper
With A D-8 Caterpillar Tractor, An Otter With A 1000 Gallon Wheel
Bladder....The Birch Creek Had Swollen To Where We Could Not
Cross It To Return To Ketchum Were (Sic) We Had Started From."
She Goes On To Describe How Three of the Party Rafted Down Birch
Creek To the Steese Highway, and Later, When the Waters of Birch
Creek Subsided, She and Her Husband Were Able To Return To the
Highway. She States: "Then in 1969, Joe Vogler, His Brother
Dwerl Vogler, Jan Mackowiak and Myself Returned To Where We Had
Left the Tractor and 1000 Gallon Fuel Bladders On the Bielenberg
Trail. We Then Continued On the Bielenberg Trail for Woodchopper
Creek. It Took Us About 5 Days Stopping To Sleep at Night." She
States That She Has "Flown Over the Bielenberg Trail Many Times
And It Is Visible From the Air";
10. Joe Vogler Statement, Undated, States: "I First Used
The Bielenberg Trail in 1953 Or 1954. Heine Carstens and I Were
Going Prospecting On the Upper Reaches of Big Windy, of the
Birch. We Used A Caterpillar Tractor and A Go-Devel (Sic), On
Which We Loaded Our Supplies and Fuel....The Trail Was Well
Defined and Had Been Used in the Past, We Had Trouble With Some
Of the Creek Crossings Because the Ground Was Frozen and We Could
Not Restore the Cut Banks Where the Trail Crossed the Small
Creeks...My Next Use of the Trail Was in 1968. My Wife and I
Leased Woodchopper Creek From Dr. Ernest N. Patty in
1968....There Are Old Horse Drawn Scrapers On Woodchopper Creek,
So Someone Used Horses There and the Trail May Have Originally
Been Made By Their Use, But It Has Been Used for Machinery Since
The Thirties...";
1. "Mine Access and Land Status," Yukon-Charley Rivers
National Preserve, 1982, National Park Service, Notes the Route
As A Winter Trail;
2. 1979 and 1981 Aerial Photographs Show the Bielenberg
Trail From Portage Creek To Woodchopper Creek;
3. "Golden Places: the History of Alaska-Yukon Mining,"
William R. Hunt for the National Park Service, 1990, Contains A
Listing of Yukon-Charley Chronology Which States That in 1935
"A.D. Mcrae and Earnest Patty Commence Dredging On Coal and
Woodchopper Creeks," and That in 1942-45 the Area Suffers A "War
Years Shutdown, Although Woodchopper Dredge Worked in 1943 and
Coal Creek in 1945";
4. "Environmental Overview and Analysis of Mining Effects,
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve," National Park Service,
Undated, States: "Movement of Equipment To and From Mining Claims
In the Preserve Has Been Accomplished in Three Ways. the First
Is Utilization of A Winter Trail Originating at Circle Hot
Springs. Caterpillar Tractors Can Safely Travel This Route in
Winter When the Ground Is Frozen and Can Support Heavy Loads.
The Trip Is Long (40 Miles To Woodchopper Creek and 56 Miles To
Coal Creek) and Requires at Least One Overnight Stay Along the
5. Memorandum, Dale Stirling, Historian, To Ron Swanson,
Head State Interests Determinations, 9/25/84, Researched the
Bielenberg Trail and Concludes "My Research Reveals That This
Trail Was Not in Existence Prior To 1933, the Earliest Date of
Use Noted in the October 11, 1983 Letter of Walter Roman," and
Goes On To State: "According To My Research the Bulenberg (Sic)
Trail Was Not Established Until the Early 1950s...";
6. Alaska-Yukon Buyers' Guide, From Yukon Gazetteer and
Directory (1915-16), Lists the Population of Circle As 250,
Stating: "A P.O. and Mining Settlement, Settled in 1893, and Also
Known As Cricle City, On the Yukon River, 262 Miles Nw of Dawson,
Y.T., and 160 Miles From Fairbanks, Its Nearest Banking
Point...The Principle Gold Producing Creeks Are Mastodon, Eagle,
Independence, Deadwood, Miller, Mammoth and Woodchopper." Among
Its Citizens, the Guide Lists "Bellinberg Chas, Freighter and
Iii. Surface Estate Owners As Shown On Bureau of Land Management
And Alaska Division of Land Records, Are Listed As Follows:
1. National Park Service; Yukon-Charley Rivers National
2. Bureau of Land Management;
3. State of Alaska.
IV. Acceptance of Grant
The Earliest Reservation Along the Subject Route Was the Notice
Of Application for Withdrawal (PLO 4582), Dated 12/14/68, Which
Effectively Segregated All Public Lands in Alaska From
Appropriation. the Grant of the RS 2477 Right-Of-Way for the
Bielenberg Trail Was Accepted By Construction and Use, Subject To
Valid, Existing Rights, When the Land Was Not Reserved for Public

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