Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Dr. Andy Embick, Part 1

Dr. Andy Embick was interviewed on July 25, 1993 by David Krupa at the Embick home in Valdez, Alaska. The family's love of outdoor sports and recreation covers the walls; variously sized skis, backpacks, mountaineering equipment, and kayaks are neatly stored in hallways, basement nooks, and garage rafters; guide books, manuals, and Alaskana fill the bookcases. His home has the feel of a well-provisioned base camp, and Andy the demeanor of a capable expedition leader. On tape, Andy talks about his kayaking experiences in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. He discusses the joys, difficulties, and dangers of the sport and provides good insight on how parklands can either facilitate or hinder opportunities for this sort of radical recreation. He argues that kayaking is one of the few means for people to gain access to otherwise remote areas of Alaska. He also says that Alaska is home to some of the last, greatest, and most pristine undammed rivers in the world. A long-term view, Andy suggests, would recognize and cherish this uniqueness and promote recreational access instead of building roads such as that being constructed along the Copper River between Chitina and Cordova.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 95-71-08-01

Project: Wrangell-St.Elias National Park
Date of Interview: Jul 25, 1993
Narrator(s): Dr. Andy Embick
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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1) His background, education, and what brought him to Alaska

2) His experience with outdoor activities

3) River exploration and learning the need for scouting

4) Getting kayak instruction and his first trip down Heiden Canyon

5) Preparing for the first kayaking trip in the Wrangell Mountains

6) Running the Kotsina River for the first time

7) Subsequent visits to the Wrangell Mountains

8) Rob Lesser and the attraction of the rivers

9) Mountains in the Wrangell Mountains and snowfall

10) Rivers form on the south flank of the Wrangell Mountains

11) Names and descriptions of rivers in the Wrangell Mountains

12) Development threats to rivers in the Wrangell Mountains

13) Construction and maintenance of landing strips

14) A catalog of his own experiences

15) Running the Nadina River and the Chetaslina River

16) Running the Kuskulana River, the Gilahina River, and the Lakina River

17) The historic running of the Nizina River, the Chitistone River, and the Chitna River

18) The historic running of the Tana River

19) Running the (Kiagna) and Chitina Rivers

20) Recent river runs

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Oregon\ Pomona College\ California\ forest fire fighting -- 1969\ Fairbanks\ Big Delta\ Goodpaster\ Tanana River\ North Slope\ Arco #7\ Oxford -- Rhodes Scholar\ Harvard Medical School\ Indian Health Service -- Arizona and Nevada\ Gerard, Dr. Bernard\ Valdez -- 1979

Section 2: climbing\ outdoor activities\ learning to kayak\ Buck, Mike\ story -- learning to roll\ river kayaking\ equipment\ white water kayak\ Keystone Canyon -- Lowe River\ Lowe, Sgt. Percival -- death 1896\ story -- first kayak trip

Section 3: river -- exploration\ attitude -- go and try\ Tsaina River\ Richardson Highway\ Jacob's Ladder\ scouting

Section 4: kayak -- instruction\ Judd, Becky\ Kusuda, Yuri\ Harrison, Linda\ U'ren, Steve\ Hampshire College -- Amherst, MA\ slalom racing\ winter training\ unrun rivers\ Upper Lowe River -- Heiden Canyon\ Buck, Mike\ story -- Heiden Canyon

Section 5: Wrangells -- 1981\ Kotsina Road\ Strelna\ McCarthy Road\ Kotsina River\ bush pilots\ Kuskulana River\ Kuskulana Bridge\ Chitina\ Fejes, Sam -- float pilot\ Lokken, Jim\ Jordan, Steve

Section 6: story -- running Kotsina River\ Kotsina Canyon\ Jordan, Steve -- tripped over\ Skinner, Pete\ Kotsina -- second trip

Section 7: lower section of Kotsina\ upper Kotsina\ Remington, Jim\ middle section of Kotsina\ Long Glacier\ Elliott Creek\ solo trip -- Kotsina\ bear glass\ Chitina\ Copper River Delta

Section 8: Kotsina -- challenging\ limit of possible difficulty\ Lesser, Rob\ Grand Canyon\ Rapid Rob -- Idaho\ Kotsina -- compared to Grand Canyon\ Stikine River -- Idaho\ British Colombia\ rivers -- main attraction to Wrangell St. Elias

Section 9: peaks -- not conducive to climbing\ Mt. Sanford\ Sheep Glacier\ Mt. Wrangell -- attempt\ Mt. Drum\ Mt. Blackburn\ rock climbing\ precipitation -- Wrangells\ snow fall\ description of seasons in Wrangells

Section 10: south flank of Wrangells\ Chetaslina\ Cheshnina\ Nadina\ Dadina\ Chetaslina\ Cheshnina\ Kotsina\ Gilahina\ Lakina\ Kennecott\ Chitina

Section 11: Fast and Cold: A Guide to Alaska Whitewater -- book\ Wrangells -- "premier playground"\ Copper River Road\ rivers in Wrangells -- tributaries of Copper\ Jacksina\ Nabesna\ Chisana\ White River\ Tanana River\ Tatshenshini\ Alsek\ Alaska Range\ kayaking -- appealing trip\ Tana River\ Chitina River\ Copper River\ Gulf of Alaska\ Copper River Flats\ Prince Williams Sound\ Cordova\ glacier fed rivers\ Gilahina\ Wrangell-St. Elias Park\ no dams

Section 12: Copper River Road\ Kuskulana River\ Gilahina River\ Lakina River\ Kennicott River\ rivers accessible by road\ helicopter\ bush pilots\ Ellis, Lynn\ Gulkana\ airplane -- Super Cub

Section 13: Ellis, Bill\ landing strips -- construction and maintenance\ National Park Service\ Claus, Paul\ Ultima Thule Lodge\ McColl Ridge\ Super Cub -- take off\ trail building\ backpacking\ Ellis, Lynn

Section 14: geographically\ Jacksina River\ Nabesna River\ McGuiness, Sean\ sheep and caribou hunting\ Northway\ Ellis, Lynn\ Loffredo, Joe\ Jacksina River\ Drop Creek\ Sanford River\ Mt. Sanford\ clipper\ Kraus, Wes\ Woods, Jeff\ river speed\ Chitina\ Cordova\ Flag Point Bridge\ river travel

Section 15: Nadina River\ Jordan, Steve\ Dadina River\ Ellis, Lynn\ Roach, Chris\ Buck, Mike\ Chetaslina River\ Jordan, Steve\ Super Cub access\ Copper River\ Copper Center\ Chitina\ Kotsina River

Section 16: Kuskulana River\ Buck, Mike\ Jordan, Steve\ Roach, Chris\ Gilahina River\ Lakina River\ Buck, Mike\ Remington, Jim\ Goddard, Jim\ Todd, Kathy -- wife

Section 17: Nizina River\ Russell, Mark\ Schwatka, Fredrick\ Willard Hayes, Charles\ historical trips\ tide water -- Cordova\ Chitistone River\ raft\ Allen, Henry Lt.\ Robertson, Cady Sgt.\ Fickett, Fred Pt.\ moose hide bidarki\ Chief Nicolai\ Chitina River\ MacCarthy, Albert\ Mt. Logan\ McCarthy\ Cordova

Section 18: Tana River\ Claus, Paul\ Claus, Donna\ Cabanis, Jan\ Reymiller, Scott\ Tana Canyon\ Idaho\ Tana Lobe\ Ross Green Lake

Section 19: (Kiagna) River\ Roach, Chris\ Chitina

Section 20: Claus, Paul\ Chakina River -- last unrun river in Wrangells\ Bremner River\ National Park Service -- helicopter service\ Copper River\ 18 trips to Copper River\ Cordova\ Tatshenshini River\ Alsek River\ Yukon Territories\ British Columbia\ Alaska\ Kluane National Park -- Canada\ Wrangell-St. Elias National Park\ Glacier Bay\ Copper\ Susitna\ Cook Inlet\ Gulf of Alaska