Yukon Sights

Kennecott Mines, Alaska

27 August 2010 - continued

To see pictures of our drive into McCarthy, visit my page 20100827_McCarthyRd.html

From the very small town of McCarthy we took the shuttle up to the old copper mine.  I think the cost was $5 each.  Fortunately, dogs were permitted on the shuttle, space permitting.  The van was crowded, dusty, dirty and hot; I think the last thing on anyone's mind was a dog in the back sitting on a lap.

Some of the passengers were heading out for an overnight tenting expedition north of Kennecott mine so had lots of gear that took a lot of space.

We got to the mine site at about 1:30 p.m. after a slow drive on a VERY bumpy road.

The last van out of the mine was at 3 p.m. so we knew we had to move along on our self-guided tour.  There were guided tours of the inside of some buildings, but the fee was more than we wanted to pay ($25 each), plus dogs weren't allowed.  Dogs had to wait at the information centre, tied up, which wouldn't have suited Tazz all that well.  So we poked around on our own with Tazz alongside.

The buildings at the mine are being restored and preserved.  Some are privately owned, while others are open to the public.  Others can be accessed by paying for the tour.

The National Park Service website includes engineering drawings and more photos.

I've scanned the flyer provided by the National Park Service, which included a map:
- The Kennecott Story (1,000 kB pdf file)
- Kennecott Mill Town map (500 kB pdf file)

The mine site is shown in high resolution on Google Maps.

At the mine, there is a great sign marking the entrance ...

Kennecott Mines in Alaska
Entrance to the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark

Immediately I was struck by the magnitude of this site.  To think this was constructed circa 1910!  In the middle of nowhere!  Just the construction of the railroad would have been a significant undertaking.

The restored mine manager's office and family home was open for exploring.  It was interesting to see the various additions to the original building, plus to see office areas.  The kitchen in the home was small and simple compared to today's standards.

Kennecott Mines in Alaska
The Kennecott buildings tower high above the road, with the mine manager's house/office on the lower right

I can't imagine what the men's wives thought of this wilderness spot in the middle of nowhere!  The only way in was on the ore train; there was no road until after the mine closed and the rail right-of-way donated to the State of Alaska.   

Kennecott Mines in Alaska
The Kennecott mine buildings provide a stark contrast to the surrounding mountains

Kennecott had its own hospital.  Apparently this hospital was the first in Alaska to have an x-ray machine.

Kennecott Mines in Alaska
The Kennecott hospital - it appeared the creek to the right had flooded the area recently

Not open for exploring were the bunkhouses.  It appeared these buildings were in the process of being restored.  One was nearly complete while the other had its framework and foundations shored up to keep it intact. 

Kennecott Mines in Alaska
The hospital on the left, a restored bunkhouse in the middle and a not so restored bunkhouse on the right

The power plant was destroyed by fire in August 1924.  It had to be rebuilt VERY quickly before first snow fall!  Today, it remains in good condition.  I was appreciating the camera's ability to capture a good image in very dark conditions as I hadn't packed my flash.  One of the railings served as my "tripod".

Allis-Chalmers Company power plant at Kennecott Mines in Alaska
Kennecott Mines power plant - the white lettering says, "Allis-Chalmers Company"

Initially I wasn't certain whether the gravel piles to the west of the mine were the result of the Kennicott Glacier retreating or tailings from the mine.  An info sign indicated these were tailing piles. 

The glacier is visible far back in the distance.  A woman who was a "Kennecott Kid" and visited the mine in recent years apparently indicated the glacier used to be very near the mine buildings.

Tailings at Kennecott Mines in Alaska
Tailings from the Kennecott Mine with Kennicott Glacier far in the distance

On the north side of town near the family residences, the view of the mill was stunning in the sunshine.   Some of the homes are open to the public, some are privately owned.  The homes are very small with the train tracks just a few feet from the front porches.

Kennecott Mines in Alaska
Kennecott mill and concentrator buildings

We poked around a fair bit, wandering behind the buildings and climbing through much debris.  Tazz was a good sport through it all, although gave us a look now and then that suggested she thought we were silly people. 

Kennecott Mine in Alaska
Steve & Tazz on the backside of some buildings at Kennecott Mines

The last shuttle out of Kennecott was at 3 p.m.  There were a lot of people who paid for the last walking tour of the day which ended just before that bus departed.  I was thinking that last van would be VERY full.  So we headed out to catch the 2:30 bus.  It was a good idea as the bus was empty except for us and our dog.  The driver took us back to the pedestrian bridge.

After getting back to the truck, we backtracked just a ways back down the road to the McCarthy Road Information Station.  It was closed but the picnic bench was open!

Information Station on McCarthy Road in Alaska
Getting ready for lunch at the McCarthy Road Information Centre

On our way back to Copper River we stopped only once to check out a potential boondock spot.  It looked good and is now waypointed in the GPS for our next trip.

The clouds were moving back in too.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
View to the north westbound on McCarthy Road - N61 22.081 W143 34.497

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Still westbound on McCarthy Road - N61 28.206 W143 55.678

As we again crossed over the Kuskulana Bridge I took a picture northward. 
That is a long way down! 

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Crossing the Kuskulana Bridge westbound

It was a great day!  Both of us enjoyed seeing the mine and poking around the buildings. 

Back at the Copper River it was again windy and chilly.  The cloud was looking very thick too.  We made it an early night; just tired after our interesting day!

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