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The Eklutna River is a 22 mile (35 km) long river located in the Southcentral region of the U.S. state of Alaskamarker. A degraded anadromous stream of glacial origin, it originates at Eklutna Glacier and flows through Eklutna Lake and a canyon up to 350 feet (107 m) deep, emptying into the Knik Arm of Cook Inletmarker approximately 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Anchoragemarker. It has one significant tributary, Thunderbird Creek, which enters the south bank about 1 km (0.6 mi) upstream from where the river exits the canyon and forms an alluvial fan. Due to water impoundments on the Eklutna River for power generation, Thunderbird Creek is currently the main source of water in the river. The river is located entirely within the limits of the Municipality of Anchorage.

The lower dam

Anchorage was largely electrified by the late 1920s, but as demand increased, Eklutna was selected as a power source because of the hydroelectric potential of the river, then known as Eklutna Creek, and Eklutna Lake. In 1927, the City of Anchorage contracted with the Anchorage Light and Power Company to construct what is now called the Old Eklutna Hydroplant. Construction included a low-head storage dam at the outlet of Eklutna Lake and a high concrete arch diversion dam (known as the Lower Dam) in the river canyon downstream of the lake. The diversion dam diverted water through a 1/4 mile-long tunnel to a turbine house near the village of Eklutnamarker. Since its construction, the Lower Eklutna Dam has been a barrier to fish movement upstream. When the Upper Dam was brought online, the Lower Dam was shut down as a result and the Lower Eklutna Dam was allowed to fill with gravel. This dam is no longer operational and is currently completely backfilled with sediment to a depth of approximately at the upstream face of the dam.

The upper dam

Military expansion in Anchorage during the 1940s stressed the capacity of the Eklutna power generation system and it was upgraded several times. In 1948 the Bureau of Reclamation recommended the construction of a new dam to raise the level of Eklutna Lake to an elevation of above sea level with a tunnel intake at . Construction was completed in 1955. The new system replaced the aging storage dam at the lake outlet with a new dam that diverted water through a long, diameter concrete lined tunnel with a capacity of per second (18 m³/s) to a turbine house on the south bank of the Knik Rivermarker. The dam, as modified, is an earth- and rock-filled structure, long and contains approximately of material. This new plant used essentially the entire storage capacity of Eklutna Lake and no water was made available to operate the existing plant at Eklutna.

The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake severely damaged the dam. Because of this, a new storage dam was built downstream from the existing storage dam at the lake outlet. The new Eklutna Dam (referred to as the Upper Dam) is an earth and rockfill structure long and high containing 85,000 yd³ (65,000 m³) of material. The spillway is a rectangular concrete conduit through the dam with an uncontrolled overflow crest. The maximum capacity of the spillway is 3,315 ft³/s (94 m³/s). There are no outlet works through the dam, as the power tunnel serves in that capacity. As the Upper Dam impounds 100% of the flow from Eklutna Lake, the river's volume immediately downstream is zero.

Eklutna Lake Road

The winding and rolling road leading to Eklutna Lake from the Glenn Highway was recently paved as it was previously primarily dirt and gravel. The result of this has been a massive influx of motorcycle riders that treat the road as if it were their own racetrack. Many crashes and even a few fatalities have occurred since the amount of rubbish dragged onto the road by ATV towing trucks makes for very hazardous riding conditions. Additionally, the pavement quickly cracked and was repaired with numerous tar strips. This has also accounted for several accidents and destroyed motorcycles. Motorcycles aren't the only ones with mishaps on this particular stretch of asphalt as several automobiles have also driven off of the road into the woods hundreds of feet below. At least one instance was a suicide, but most are written off as attempts to set faster lap times. The ability to reach the lake faster than all of one's riding or driving partners separates the strong from the weak, and some are even too timid to attempt a time trial on this treacherous and challenging course.

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