Abandoned Kennicott Copper Mining Town, Alaska

The old mining town of Kennicott in the US state of Alaska is located on the south slopes of Wrangell mountain close to the Kennicott Glacier, about five miles up from the small town of McCarthy. While McCarthy has a year-round population of about two dozen people, Kennicott is totally deserted.

This mining town was founded in the 1900s after a group of wealthy investors discovered incredibly rich deposits of copper ore in the mountains. A railroad was promptly built to transport ore from the mines to the nearest port, in Cordova, and the company town of Kennicott was officially founded in 1911. Its name is actually a misspelling of Kennecott Copper Corporation.

Kennicott was a typical company town. Most of the miners lived there in company housing and everything revolved around mining operations. The miners were not allowed to bring their families, and no gambling and drinking were allowed. So a new town quickly sprang up where miners could enjoy wine and women. This new town was McCarthy. It had saloons, restaurants, hotels, pool halls, stores, and a thriving red light district.

From 1911 to 1938, nearly $200 million worth of copper was processed. At the peak of operation, approximately 300 people worked in the mill town and 200-300 lived in the mines up the mountain. After 27 years of operation, the mines as well as the railroad ceased operation. When the Kennecott Copper Corporation abandoned the town in 1938, they left behind just about everything, their equipment, their buildings, and their personal belongings.

In the late 1960s, an attempt was made to resume mining operation but the high cost of transportation made the idea unprofitable. Around the same time, the company with land rights ordered the destruction of the town to rid them of liability for potential accidents. A few structures were destroyed, but the job was never finished and most of the town was left standing.

Tourism began to develop in the 1970s and by the 80s, Kennicott had become a popular tourist attraction. In 1986 the town was designated a National Historic Landmark, and the National Park Service stabilized and rehabilitated many of the mill and town buildings. The 14-story tall wooden concentration mill is worth seeing.

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