Kennicott Ghost Town – Chitina, Alaska - Atlas Obscura

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Kennicott Ghost Town

The ghostly remains of what was once the world's richest copper mine.  


The town Kennicott in Alaska was once flourishing, full of workers who came to the town in search of wealth and work in the mines. There were businesses, shops, a train connection, and a lot of life. Then in 1938 the town was abruptly abandoned by its citizens, leaving most of their possessions behind. Since the middle of the 1950s the place has been completely deserted.

In the Kennicott mines it was not gold that people were digging for, like in so many other places, but copper. After copper was discovered in the area in 1900, a group of wealthy investors formed the Kennicott Copper Corporation (named when a clerical worker misspelled Kennicott) to mine the incredibly rich veins in the jagged mountains above the Kennicott and Root Glaciers.

In the 27 years the mine was in full operation, the company made more than $100 million, and a company town grew around the mines. Partly because alcoholic beverages and sex work were forbidden in Kennicott, a nearby village, McCarthy, grew as an area to provide illicit services not available in the company town. It grew quickly into a major town, with a school, a hospital, a saloon, and a brothel.

By 1938, the copper deposits were mostly gone, and the mine was shut down, and the town was abandoned. The railroad discontinued service that same year.

Today, Kennicott is a virtual ghost town and along with McCarthy has a year-round population of just a couple of dozen people. Located deep in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, what remains of the towns offers visitors a taste of Alaska’s historic mining era. A number of the buildings from that era are still in use and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Know Before You Go

The McCarthy Road ends at the footbridge that crosses the Kennicott River, approximately 5 miles from the town of Kennicott. To get to Kennicott, you must park your car, walk across the bridge with your bags.Coming from Edgerton Highway through Chitina, the pavement ends at the Copper River. Continue across the bridge to the gravel "McCarthy Road". On McCarthy Road continue to the end at Kennicott River. A footbridge to McCarthy is available there. From McCarthy, it is 4.5 miles to Kennicott. Kennicott can only be reached by foot or the available shuttles.Remember, services are limited once you begin your journey along the McCarthy Road In wet weather the road often becomes muddy and slippery. Portions of the road may be subject to washouts after heavy rains. Soft shoulders have led to numerous accidents and vehicle damage. Carry at least one spare tire and an adequate car jack. Most people spend a minimum of two days exploring the McCarthy/Kennicott area. Camping is allowed near the end of the road. Lodging is available at McCarthy and Kennicott. Reservations are recommended. There are several eating establishments and a bar. There are numerous adventure services available, such as flight seeing around the Wrangell Mountain Range, rafting, mountaineering, and guided historic and wilderness tours. The Wrangell Mountain Center offers accredited courses in wilderness studies. Most of these services shut down for the winter.

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