Juneau's most popular U.S. Forest Service backcountry cabin just became more accessible.
The Windfall Lake cabin about 17 miles northwest of town sees more than 200 nights of use a year - the most on the Tongass National Forest.
The agency spent about $15,000, doing repairs and construction this past summer, to make the cabin accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The cabin is easy to get to - one reason it's popular, said Ed Grossman, recreation program manager for the Juneau Ranger District.
The Windfall Lake cabin is one of few of more than 150 cabins managed by the agency in Southeast Alaska that can be accessed by foot. The large majority require a boat or plane.
A 3.3-mile hike along relatively flat terrain is the most popular route to the cabin located on the east side of Windfall Lake, but it's also accessible by float plane.
"This is great news for us because we do use the cabins," said Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, a team leader in Juneau with Southeast Alaska Independent Living, which helps seniors and people with disabilities live independent lives.
New access at Windfall Lake would probably not influence the organization's program because a trip there would require an expensive float plane trip, Knutson-Lombardo said. But he supported the effort toward more accessibility.
"Any time we make these cabins more accessible, the better," he said. "It would be great to see this expanded to other cabins as well."
The agency gave forest managers the direction to make at least one cabin on a lake, and another on the ocean, fully accessible, Grossman said.
The Taku River Cabin is the other Forest Service cabin being converted to ADA standards.
The 16-by-14-foot Windfall Lake cabin was made accessible by adding an elevated wooden boardwalk between the dock, cabin and outhouse.
The trailhead to the cabin is located at the end of Herbert River Road near mile 26 on the Glacier Highway.
A 3.3-mile, flat trail is popular with snowshoers and cross-country skiers in the winter. The cabin sleeps six, has a table and benches, a wood stove, cooking counter and food cupboard. It is heated by a propane wall furnace. There's a deck, a picnic table and an outhouse that is also now accessible by wheelchair.
Water is gathered from the lake and should be treated, boiled or filtered.
The Forest Service limits reservations at Windfall Lake to two nights because of the cabin's popularity.
The cost is $35 per night. Eighty percent of the user fees are spent on cabin maintenance, Grossman said.
Windfall Lake and the adjacent creek also draw salmon and trout fishermen, Grossman said.
Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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