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Fort Egbert

1899 to 1911

Name of Ski Area: Fort Egbert
Location: Eagle, on the south bank of the Yukon River just to the west of the Canadian border.
Type of Area: Ski Trails
Dates of Operation: 1899 to 1911 (the U.S. Army Signal Corps stayed after the fort closed to operate the telegraph station)
Who Built It?: U.S. Army


Facilities: Fort Egbert, a U.S. Army outpost that supported a large number of troops. 
History: As the gold rush to Alaska gained momentum at the tail end of the 1890's, the U.S. Army arrived to help maintain order.   Posts were established at Fort Seward (Haines), Fort Liscum (Valdez), Fort Egbert (Eagle), Fort Gibbon (Tanana), Fort St. Michael (St. Michael), and Fort Davis (Nome).

Soldiers at these posts used skis for drills, patrols, recreation and for hunting for food.

The book "Another Man's Life" by C. A. (Bert) Bryant, which can be found at the Alaska State Library in Juneau, has an account of Bert Bryant spending 57 days on skis prospecting in this area in 1902 (page 150).  Bert would often work as a teamster and wood cutter for the Fort Egbert post.

From: Duty Station Northwest, The U.S. Army in Alaska and Western Canada, 1867-1987, Volume One 1867-1917, Lyman L. Woodman, Lt. Colonel, USAF-Retired.

Major Charles S. Farnsworth was post commander 1910-1912.  Farnsworth encouraged skiing and hunting parties for recreation and for the Arctic training value, as well as to obtain fresh meat.  Sports and recreation programs and various forms of entertainment the men devised contributed to their high morale".

Sources of Information:

Dave Brann; John Rogers

~  PHOTOS  ~

This panoramic photo from 1902 shows Fort Egbert in Eagle Alaska.  The Yukon River can be seen in the center far right.  Eagle Bluff is the prominent high point behind the fort.

(click on this image to expand it)

[Photo credit: Alaska State Library, Einar J. Evans]

ASL_FortEgbert_1902_pano.jpg (28596 bytes)

This undated photo shows a winter shot of a building at Fort Egbert, cannons and, likely, the "fort dog".

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[Photo credit: Alaska State Library, Wickersham Collection]

ASL_FortEgbert_Early1900s_winter.jpg (27476 bytes)


Here is an interesting picture of the remaining buildings of abandoned Fort Egbert in 1919.  The fort buildings are encircled by a fence and the town of Eagle is behind the fort.

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[Photo credit: University of Alaska, Anchorage, Archives]

UAA_FortEgbert_1919_abandoned.jpg (37631 bytes)


Bert Bryant - 1899 Ft. Egbert Packer/ Teamster with the Army
The photo above, circa 1897-8, shows Bert Bryant at a lean-to he built for winter trapping in Montana.  Note the skis leaning against the left side of the structure.  More info on Bert Bryant can be found in the article below and John Roger's email at the bottom of this web page.

From the Columbia Falls, MT "Columbian":


Another band of Elk.

Bert Bryant was down from the Elk camp on Saturday, long enough to tell that they had succeeded in catching five live elk.  The manner of capture was the same as that described in these columns last year.  The boys on “skis” walked around the edge of the gulch until the elk were located.  Then they whizzed down the hillside into the bunch of elk and threw lariats over their heads before the startled animals could realize what was going.  After an hour’s work on the rope the elk is usually willing to be led into camp.  Sometimes the bull elk will show fight, and the man on “skis” has to keep a cool head and pretty steady foot.  Messrs. Bryant and Christiansen, who have been most successful in elk capture, describe the sensation of approaching a band of elk with “skis” running a mile a minute, perhaps, as the most thrilling in the line of sport.  There is sufficient element of danger to make the ride exciting and decidedly uncertain for the amateur.

[Note: This date may be a misprint.  John Rogers, a relative of Bryant's, thinks the date is more likely 1896].

~  MAPS  ~

This topo view shows the location of Eagle in Eastern Interior Alaska on the Yukon River.  The black to the right of the map is Canada.

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topo_fortegbert.jpg (121377 bytes)

A zoomed in topo view shows the area around Eagle and where the Fort Egbert site is.

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topo_zoom_fortegbert.jpg (90609 bytes)

Research Correspondence 
[John Rogers - 31 January 2008 email]

A relative of mine, C.A. Bert Bryant, went to Ft Egbert in 1899 as a packer/teamster with the Army.  He soon quit the Army to pack supplies for miners, cut and sell firewood for river boats, and eventually he started mining on his own.
I don’t know how he got around in the winter, and I have no knowledge of him using skis in Alaska, but I do know that he previously used skis when he lived in Montana.
I enclose a photo (winter of 1897-8) of Bert at a lean-to he had built for winter trapping.  At the left of the picture are his skis leaning up against the wall of the lean-to.
I also enclose a news clipping (1886) from the Columbia Falls MT “Columbian”, describing how he captured elk in the winter, on skis.
Sorry I can’t find any evidence that he got around in the Eagle vicinity other than on foot, dog sled, or on horseback.  He documented his life in a manuscript “Memoirs of C.A. (Bert) Bryant”, held in the Sate Library in Juneau.



Do you have further information, stories or pictures that you would like to contribute about this ski area?