Located deep in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Kennicott and McCarthy offer visitors a taste of Alaska’s historic mining era and outstanding recreational opportunities.
About Kennicott and McCarthy
Kennicott and McCarthy sit five miles apart at the end of the McCarthy Road, about 90 miles from the turnoff from the Richardson Highway. Today, Kennicott is a ghost town and McCarthy has a year-round population of just a couple of dozen people. After copper was discovered in the area in 1900, a group of wealthy investors formed the Kennecott Copper Corporation (named when a clerical worker misspelled Kennicott) to mine the incredibly rich veins in the jagged mountains above Root Glacier. The corporation built the Copper River & Northwest Railroad to get the copper ore from Kennicott to the nearest port, in Cordova, and established the company town of Kennicott. From 1911-1938, when the mine was in full operation, the company made more than $100 million.
Since no gambling or drinking were allowed in the company town, nearby McCarthy quickly sprang up as a place where miners could enjoy “wine, women and song,” in its saloons, restaurants, hotels, pool halls, stores, and, yes, a red light district. A number of the buildings from that era are still in use and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Things to do
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest national park in the U.S. at 13.2 million acres and a crossroads of several mountain ranges. Within the park, the Wrangell, Chugach and St. Elias ranges merge to create an alpine paradise that includes nine of the 16 highest peaks in the country.
In McCarthy, visitors will find lodging, restaurants, basic services, the interesting McCarthy-Kennecott Historical Museum and outfitters that will take them on a range of activities, from glacier trekking and whitewater rafting to flightseeing trips into the alpine heart of the national park. A shuttle van transports visitors the five miles up the road to the historic mining ruins at Kennicott. In recent years, the National Park Service has restored most of the mine buildings, and tours of the huge mill building, bunkhouses, a train depot, worker's cottages and the power plant are available. The white-trimmed red buildings stand out against the dramatic mountain-and-glacier backdrop at the mine site and the entire area is a photographer’s dream.
Several hiking trails depart from near the mine ruins, including the Root Glacier Trail, which leads directly to the surface of Root Glacier, and the Old Mine Trail, a challenging four-mile hike straight up the side of a mountain to the remains of a site where ore was loaded into ore cars and lowered down to the mill buildings below by tram.