Current news – As promised the second installment from our adventures into the Wrangell St. Elias national park, here we reached our goal of Kennecott mine.
In the midst of the vast wilderness of the Wrangell-St. Elias majestic mountains during the summer of 1900 two adventurous prospectors, exploring near the Kennicott Glacier, discovered an extraordinarily rich outcropping of copper. The unprecedented purity of the copper ore sent global shock waves through the mining community. Shortly thereafter a group of wealthy investors formed the Kennecott Copper Corporation (named when a clerical worker misspelled Kennicott, all references to the mining side are now Kennecott whilst the area is still Kennicott). They set out to mine the incredibly rich veins of copper in the jagged mountains above Root Glacier and this remote valley came alive. Here we explored the remains of the once thriving Kennecott Mill town and mine.
Against all odds, 6000 men, working throughout the harsh Alaskan winters built a 196-mile rail line from the nearest sea port of Cordova at the mouth of the Copper River through the booming town of Chitina to the newly-constructed Kennicott Mill Town so the ore could be extracted. Nicknamed “Can’t Run and Never Will” the Copper River and Northwestern railway did and mining and extraction of copper ore continued until 1938, producing, in today’s dollars, a phenomenal $1,287,000,000 net profit!
The mill buildings, some of which have been restored and some of which, like the 14-story concentration mill clinging over 5miles high up into the side of the mountain have been arrested in a state of suspended decay.
Here you can see the power plant with the four chimneys, inside were the boilers.
There was also a machine shop, floatation plant, ammonia leaching plant to process the copper ore (the world’s first).
The vast majority of the town structures, were painted red, the least expensive colour at the time. Kev is standing in front of the general manager’s office, the log cabin part being the first building in Kennicott.
Karen stands before the town’s only white washed building this was the hospital which housed the the first x-ray machine in Alaska. On the right was the workers bunkhouses.
The restored storehouse was well stocked with various goods from the day and a sample of copper from the mine.
We enjoyed a lovely pizza dinner from second generation resident Stacie. Back in the 1920′s her mum and dad Jeanie and Jim created Tailor Made Pizza in a historic tailor shop, hence the “Tailor” in the name they provided McCarthy and Kennicott residents with much needed pizza and the business was thriving up until the very end. However, the fact that the building was historic meant that it became too old to keep in good repair.
Years after the original Tailor Made’s closing, Stacie, purchased a bus with her partner, Pete. They hauled it out to Kennicott, retrofitted it with equipment from the original Tailor Made Pizza and now continue Jeannie and Jim’s pizza-making legacy with Tailor Made Pizza 2. Yep, the pizza was great!
This was also bear country and Karen shows the scale of the grizzlys footprint impression. We also saw this bear out on the glacier.
The walk to the glacier front stated it was a mile and a half so we decided to do it. What felt like two and half miles later we realised we had in fact been following alongside the glacier for some time, it was just sooo dirty it looked like part of the rock face.
All the stuff on our left is also glacier.
Here’s a close up so you can see what we mean.
We carried on our walk until we reached the white stuff. You can see people walking on the glacier in the pictures (a guide and crampons were required).
On the way back Karen tested the purity of the water straight from the glacier run off.
This rock was unusual it was made up from lots of mini rocks, here is a sample to you.
In fact quite a lot of the rocks were extraordinary in this extraordinary place.
Next up Tok