Public Lands Stewards: Bridge Project in the Wilderness

by | Land Stewards

Upper Lyman lakes in the Glacier Peak Wilderness area is a truly sublime glimpse into Washington’s high alpine. As little as one hundred years ago, these lakes were nonexistent, and instead were covered by the Lyman glacier, now almost completely receded onto the side of Red Mountain. Accessing these lakes proves challenging, the only routes being a long hike and glacier crossing via Lake Wenatchee, or the scenic and more popular Lyman Lake trail from Holden Village.


In the summer of 2018, a crucial log bridge crossing was washed out just below Upper Lyman and forced a reroute trail through highly sensitive alpine meadows and watersheds. As a Public Lands Steward AmeriCorps member through Mt. Adams Institute, partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, I had the unique opportunity to assist in the replacement of this log bridge in an effort to protect this beautiful area.


While the higher-ups we’re working on engineering the log bridge itself, I was tasked with preparing the bridge site for a successful installation. On a three day trip to Lower Lyman with my supervisor and another intern, we installed a bridge stabilization rod and removed a hazardous dead tree from the bridge site. This was vital, as the bridge log was to be airlifted via a helicopter, and strong winds could cause the tree to fall during the installation itself. Because there was no safe crossing yet in place, we used an inflatable raft (dubbed the SS Lyman) to ferry across the lake.

On July 10th (two surprising days ahead of schedule…) we once again scrambled up to Lyman Lake with a couple of helicopter technicians to install the bridge. The weather held just long enough, and after an hour of building excitement and anxiety, the helicopter appeared over the trees, bridge suspended by over one hundred feet of cable.


After much swinging, bouncing and scraping, the log was set “close enough” to our desired resting place, necessitating the use of rigging equipment for the final install. Alas, we were forced to return days later for a third time with a come along (cable puller) and bottle jack, painstakingly lugged up the nine-mile trail, to finally put the project to rest. Two days of rigging, repositioning and tiny incremental movements of the log and we were ready to install the cable handrail and cut the ribbon! Just moments later, hikers began to show up, and became the first to cross the 2019 Lyman Lake bridge.


This was an amazing project to be a part of, as there are only a handful of bridges left in the wilderness, only needing replaced every 60 odd years or so. I learned a ton about installation and engineering of log bridges, as well as factors that play in depending on the location of the bridge. So far, my AmeriCorps Public Land Stewards internship has taken me to some of the most beautiful environments I have seen, and allowed me to help protect those environments for future generations. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the summer has in store!



Zach Barton