The Boreal Alaska EcoLodge

Solar ArraysOur site is simply spectacular. Perched on the Nizina River bluffs above a wild glacial river and hundreds of square miles of national park, the wilderness views are endless. A world class setting in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park for North America’s most remote treetop adventure. The Alaska Boreal Canopy Adventure ends at the Boreal Alaska EcoLodge, a distinctive south facing, energy self-sufficient and sustainable structure. There, canopy guests will enjoy a brief tour of our 4.4 kW solar (PV) power system with azimuth tracking arrays, inverter and solar charge controller, and 48 volt 1200 amp hour 16 battery bank.

The Alaska EcoLodge embraces both passive and active solar design for maximum benefit at 61° north latitude. Originally built as a homestead cabin in 1978, the structure was expanded to 4000 ft sq (370 m sq) from 1999 to 2001. Award winning architects David Arkin and Anni Tilt’s (Arkin Tilt Ecological Planners & Design, CA) design reflects the area’s historic early 1900s mining era at Kennicott and McCarthy. Five building technologies blend in the building; log, log slab on frame hybrid, traditional frame, straw bale and timber frame. See adjacent Gallery.

Our Sustainable Building Practices

  1. Transportation of most of the Alaska EcoLodge building materials were over snowpack during the winter to minimize the trail impact to our site.
  2. Logs, log slabs, flitches and board & batten were primarily harvested from beetle kill spruce in the Copper River Valley.
  3. Oat straw bales for the bale walls were sourced from the Delta Junction area in Interior Alaska.
  4. The 75 year old scissor trusses in the EcoLodge Great Room are recycled and reused from large dimensional Douglas fir timbers that once comprised the decking and structure of the abandoned Nizina River Bridge. The remaining three steel bridge spans stand as mid-river sentinels and can be seen from the canopy course and from the Alaska EcoLodge.
  5. The EcoLodge structure was designed as a passive solar facility with thermal mass (dark stained concrete floor) and most glazing on the south wall for solar gain. Most of the building was constructed with clean and quiet solar power.
  6. For power, we designed a 4.4 Kw photovoltaic (PV) system with two azimuth tracking arrays. We can “hear” the wilderness with quiet solar power, and there are no carbon emissions. Use of our back-up generator is infrequent and use of fossil fuels on site is minimal. Energy use is also minimal with ultra-efficient appliances and a strong ethic of energy conservation.
  7. The construction of our Boreal Canopy Adventures’ course began in August 2011 and completed in 2012 with minimal forest impact. Only three spruce trees had to be removed from the cable runs, and one of those trees was infested with carpenter ants. The cables (installed by STEPS of Ann Arbor MI), a leader in design/build of canopy tour and challenge courses, also have minimal impact on the anchor trees as blocks are installed where the cable wraps (to protect the tree) and only a few lag bolts are placed to hold the blocks in place. Allowances for tree growth are made when bolts are inserted. Tree platforms are also telescoping and allow for adjustment in the center tree reveal as the tree grows in girth and height.
  8. Most of the building materials for the new Canopy Welcome Center were sourced from beetle kill spruce and spruce acquired from trail clearing in the McCarthy area. We and a local McCarthy business milled many of the rough cut timbers and freighted other related materials benefiting the area economy. A local McCarthy builder and the owner’s family built the timber frame structure in summer 2012.