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The Swinging Restoration

The Last Piece of the American Fire Puzzle

The Swinging Bridge is finally back in business! The bridge, which spans the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River at the base of the Devil’s Thumb climb, has been restored and brought back from the ashes following the 2013 American Fire.  This was accomplished jointly with USFS employees and WStrail.org volunteers. The USFS did a stellar job in getting the bridge done exactly one year after the American Fire was contained. As Craig Thornley, WSER RD, stated, “This USFS team did exactly what they said per our recovery plan in late 2013 — they delivered in a big way — huge thanks”.

The bridge work was completed over 5 days, but many days of planning, procurement, logistics and staging happened before the actual helicopter drops of material and equipment into Devil’s Basin.  We had a large volunteer crew on the ground watching the material being dropped into the canyon on Monday September 15th. “This is actually amazing how good these helicopter pilots are — pin point precision”, stated Bryan Cowger, WSTrail.org volunteer. Monday with the big volunteer crew along with USFS Engineer Ryan Mack’s direction we got the material staged at the bridge in 4 hours. Tuesday construction started with a small crew of USFS personnel and several volunteers. The days were long and there was a lot accomplished through Thursday. The bridge was nearing completion when the plug was pulled Thursday 9/18, and the crews removed due to safety and air quality concerns brought to us by yes another fire — the King Fire.

The King Fire was a fast mover, and actually moved very fast from Pollock Pines along the US 50 corridor to the north, and went all the way to the 2001 Star Fire burn, which in 2001 decimated 14 miles of the historic Western States Trail. The firefighters did their amazing magic, and with the luck of mother nature — a rain storm — the fire has been controlled (the King fire is 98% contained as of 10-3-14)

As the King Fire was reaching containment, and with the air quality improved, USFS personnel and a small volunteer crew were allowed to go back to the Swinging Bridge re-build on Monday September 29th. After another long day this crew got the job done and the bridge was historically restored. All the equipment and some of the old burned up materials were removed. These materials are being stored at the WSER Warehouse for historical safe keeping.

This was the final piece in a very long trail year that mainly focused on American Fire Recovery. Volunteers along with our strong USFS partner made this happen. Thanks to all who have helped either with sweat equity, planning, leadership or financial support. These volunteer and agency assets allow us to keep this precious resource, the Western States Trail, open.

Big Thanks… Put a fork in it — it’s done!!!






The Monday Helicopter Drop Volunteer Crew


Matt Brownlee, USFS American River Ranger District Trails Manager






From top left Joe Larkin (WSTF volunteer), Ryan Mack (USFS), Luke Haworth (USFS), Dan Manry (USFS), Mark Lambert (retired USFS), John Catts (WSER volunteer), Dave Noxon (USFS), Craig Thornley (WSER volunteer), Matt Brownlee (USFS)

American Fire WS Trail Recovery

A huge sincere thank you to the WSER community at large for your offers toward American Fire relief! This is what makes this race and trail so uniquely special.

Here is the current situation with American Fire Western States Trail recovery.

The WSER Foundation has been meeting with USFS Tahoe American District management and the Tevis Foundation (WSTF) on a regular basis to get a complete understanding of the fire damage. We have a joint foundation and agency team in place called the Western States Joint Trail Team (WSJTT). To date here is the status:

  • The fire affected the trail from Little Bald Mtn to Deadwood (~mile 29 to mile ~48). The fire was selective, i.e. some areas were burned and others not.
  • The trail physically has been impacted in several sections (erosion, debris, rock fall and fire suppression), especially Pucker Pt and in the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River (Swinging Bridge) canyon.
  • The WSJTT has given USFS a task priority matrix, specific to the Western States Trail, with the goal to have the trail open for the events next year (WSER and Tevis)
  • All hazard trees on this impacted section of the trail have been removed by USFS
  • The Swinging Bridge has structural damage (wood and steel). Awaiting final USFS engineer assessment. We have a river crossing contingency plan in place for next year in the event the bridge is unusable.
  • The trail is still closed from Deadwood east to Little Bald Mtn.
  • Our WSJTT is awaiting approval for a USFS led on-site visit (October) and the ability to mobilize our emergency experienced volunteer trail crew at a moments notice (October and November).
  • In the spring (March), all Western States Trail work volunteer events will be focused on American Fire recovery. These events will be posted on wser.org in January/February so if interested please sign up.

If you are interested in helping financially: Send check to

American Fire – WS Trail Repair
PO Box 99 Auburn, CA 95604

Or online:

Donations are tax deductible (WSER Tax ID #094-2902794).Again thank you for generous interest and support.

Western States Endurance Run Foundation

American Fire Map

American Fire Map

American Fire Update – Pucker Pt

The following photos are of the Pucker Pt section of the Western States trail between Dusty Corners and Last Chance. All photo credits Mary Sullivan.







Western States Trail Fund Run

On September 28th, the Western States Trail Foundation (The Tevis Cup) will be hosting a trail run to benefit the Western States Trail.  All net proceeds from the event will be earmarked to restoration efforts of the trail section impacted by the 2013 American Fire.

To sign up for the event, go the Active.com event registration page:

The event includes 5k, 10k and 10 mile courses. After your run, enjoy grilled hotdogs, hamburgers and refreshments.

Unable to join us for the event? Make a minimum contribution of at least $35 (or more if you’re feeling really benevolent) to the WSTF Trail Fund Run Donation Page, or a check via the WSTF Office, and they’ll send you a commemorative run shirt from the event.

Please direct your questions to the event run manager at wstfrunmanager@gmail.com

The 10-Mile Course

The 10-Mile Course

Swinging Bridge Update

Dear members of the Western States Trail community,

Over the past several days, excellent progress has been made in containing the American Fire. It is important to note that although the fire is now contained, it is still actively burning and the Forest Service is now in the process of identifying areas in need of repair. The Forest Service has cited falling hazard trees and repairing control lines with heavy equipment as areas that need to be addressed quickly. Because of this work, the fire area will remain closed until it is deemed safe for the public. The Western States Trail is closed between Michigan Bluff and Robinson Flat. The closed area includes the area where two bridges were damaged but are still standing. We are including two photos of the bridges to show you the current state of the bridges that have been damaged. The Forest Service has assured us that as soon as safety permits, qualified personnel will inspect the bridges to determine their foundational integrity and identify repairs needed before the public can safely use these structures.

The Swinging Bridge post-American Fire looking west (towards Devil’s Thumb side).

The little bridge on the way down to Swinging Bridge from Last Chance

Both of our organizations wish to counsel you to be patient as this process proceeds and to please follow the safety instructions that the Forest Service has issued to the public. There are still many hot or unsafe areas that qualified personnel are still showing great caution, including the canyons where the damaged bridges are located. Again, we have been assured by the Forest Service that once these areas can be safely accessed, fire repair personnel will evaluate all hazards necessary for the trail and bridge repairs to take place. We have also been assured that when these inspections take place, the Forest Service will share their findings with the public. We promise you that our organizations will actively be involved in discussing the next steps of repair and rehabilitation with the Forest Service.

The Western States Trail has been subjected to a severe trauma over the past several weeks. We are confident, however, that in working with the Forest Service, we can, as a community, help the Trail continue to be the great resources it has been for so long for so many. There will be opportunity to help the Trail regain its beauty and integrity soon; for the time being, however, we must continue to respect the Forest Service’s instructions regarding closed access and the safety of the public. As conditions change and new information is gathered, we will share it with you via our website and our social media channels.


John Trent
Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Foundation

Kathie Perry
Western States Trail Foundation