McCarthy & the old Kennecott Copper Mine
In the Beginning ... The year was 1900. Jack Smith and Clarence Warner, two prospectors, spotted a large green spot on the mountainside between the Kennicott Glacier and McCarthy Creek. What looked like a patch of green grass turned out to be one of the richest deposits of copper ore ever found! Stephen Birch, a young mining engineer looking for Alaskan claims in 1901, was approached by Smith to make an inspection of his findings. Eventually, Birch got the backing of men such as the Guggenheim brothers and J.P. Morgan who bought the existing claims. In 1906 Kennecott Mines Company was formed, which later became Kennecott Copper Corporation. (The mining company was supposed to take the name of the glacier which was named after Robert Kennicott, an early Alaskan explorer, but the company name was misspelled. The town and glacier are spelled Kennicott but the mines and company are spelled Kennecott.) The next hurdle was to transport the copper ore from the mines to the coastal town of Cordova, where it would be shipped to Tacoma, Washington, by the Alaska Steamship Company for smelting. Michael J. Heney, a master railroad builder, was called upon to oversee the construction of the Copper River Northwestern Railway. Construction began the Spring of 1908 at Cordova and stretched 196 miles to the Kennecott mines.
The McCarthy Road
Beginning at the Copper River and ending at the Kennicott River, the McCarthy Road spans approximately 58 miles. For the most part, it follows the roadbed of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway which was constructed between 1908 and 1911. For 27 years the 196 mile railway carried copper from the historic Kennicott mining area to the coast at Cordova. The last train pulled into Cordova on November 11, 1938. What is now called the McCarthy Road is a portion of that momentous construction project!
(Alas, the tram is no longer in service. Fortunately, there is a sturdy footbridge to allow easy access to McCarthy and Kennicott)
The Kennicott River trams were constructed in 1983 by local residents, with financial help from the State of Alaska. Please use extreme caution, and if you see any problems, please report them to the museum, one of the lodges, or the shuttle bus driver.
It is far easier to sit in the tram car and have someone pull from either end than it is to sit in the car and propel yourself. If waiting passengers pull you across, return the favor by helping pull the next passengers.
Don't pull too fast or ram the car against the tram platforms. Slow down as the car approaches a platform and let the passengers signal a stop.
Thank you for your interest in McCarthy and Kennicott! We who call these historically-rich communities home invite you to take a peek into our past and our present.
The McCarthy and Kennicott townsites and much of our surrounding land are privately owned. Full-time, part-time and seasonal residents occupy homes and cabins throughout the area. Many of these same people provide our visitors with a variety of lodging accommodations, meals, gift shops, guiding, river rafting, air taxis and shuttle bus services.
Credit where credit is due
Articles above are from A Visitor's Guide to Kennicott & McCarthy, and are reprinted, in part, with permission of Kenyon Services.
A Visitor's Guide to Kennicott & McCarthy is published by Kenyon Services, McCarthy, PO Box MXY, Glennallen, Alaska 99588. Phone (907) 554-4454 or Email Wsenews@aol.com. Copyright 1996. all rights reserved. The Guide is distributed free to area visitors. Single copy mail requests enclose $1.50 for postage. Publishers & Editors Rick & Bonnie Kenyon. Thanks to Ed LaChapelle for articles on Glaciers, Creeks & Rivers, How to be a Welcome Visitor, and How to use the trams.
Photographs: Agnes M. Hansen, Valdez, Alaska