|a l a s k a j o u r n e y . c o m|
|Southcentral Mountains & Prince William Sound|
Location/Climate: McCarthy is 60 miles east of Chitina in the heart of WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve. 12"/yr. precip., 52"/yr. snowfall, -58°F91°F.
Population: 31 (4 percent native).
Travel Attractions: Historic buildings and setting, Kennecott Mine ruins, Kennicott and Root Glacier access, WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve access, running the Chitina River.
Getting There: Vehicle access from Valdez, Glenallen via Richardson Highway (AK 4), Edgerton Highway (AK 10), and McCarthy Road; regular and small-plane charter service.
Information: WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve Headquarters, P.O. Box 439, Mile 105.5 Richardson Highway, Copper Center, 822-5234, www.nps.gov/wrst. Chitina Ranger Station, 823-2205.
The settlement of Kennicott grew from its mining-camp beginnings in 1908 until it featured not only the massive mine buildings, but homes, a school, gym, tennis court, and a silent movie theater. By 1911 the Copper River & Northwestern Railway was completed and trains began hauling copper ore down the Chitina and Copper Rivers to Cordova.
Since drinking and gambling were forbidden in company-owned Kennicott, McCarthy was developed 5 miles to the south along the margin of the Kennicott Glacier. As Kennicotts alter ego, McCarthy hosted saloons and a red-light district, as well as stores, hotels, restaurants, and a newspaper. The area population reached about 800, but both towns were abandoned in 1938 when the mine closed, having extracted $200 million worth of ore from the hills. The National Trust for Historic Places identifies the areas structures as among the nations most endangered. Steps to preserve them are underway.
Today the rekindled village of McCarthy is a great place to stroll, shop, sup, and stay. Visitors arrive by air or via the McCarthy Road and foot bridge (see McCarthy Road, above). Ask around about the shuttle vans that take you up the road from McCarthy along the east side of Kennicott Glacier to the buildings and ruins of the Kennecott Mine. The mine area offers great views, glacier access, and good hiking. The wonderful Kennicott Glacier Lodge serves travelers at the mine site, though most services are in McCarthy.
From Kennicott, an old road-turned-trail follows the east margin of Kennicott Glacier and Root Glacier into the hills. Glacier-based ventures into the high peaks often begin here, as do less-ambitious backpacking trips. Hiking a few miles in from the mine to find a spot for rough camping is a good idea. Be careful when walking on Kennicott or Root Glacier, and follow all bear advice religiously. Steep trails also climb up behind the mining buildings to the sites of old shafts and service structures.
Where to Stay and Eat in McCarthy and Kennicott
Historic Kennicott Bed-and-Breakfast, #14 Silk Stocking Row, Kennicott, 554-4469. Small B&B in old mine house, $120 for two.
Kennicott Glacier Lodge, Kennicott, (800) 582-5128, 258-2350, $120 single, $170 double, add about $40 per person for meals, McCarthy shuttle and mine-ruins tour included. The only lodge/ restaurant at the old Kennecott Mine site, renovated historic building, great view, fantastic location, restaurant; cant be beat! BL
McCarthy Lodge: Ma Johnson Hotel & Restaurant/Saloon, McCarthy, 554-4402. Historic rooms with modern shared baths at the hotel. Rooms are $95 and up. "Beer, Bull & Grub" at the restaurant/saloon.