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Copper Center Alaska

Wrangell St. Elias
National Park
& Preserve

Alaska Wildlife
Kennicott & McCarthy Chitina

You must see the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve to believe it. The largest U.S. national park, it is 13.2 million acres in size. Four major mountain ranges (Wrangell, Chugach, St. Elias, and Alaska) meet in the park. It includes 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the United States. Mount Wrangell is an active volcano, which last erupted in 1900. With the adjourning Kluane National Park in Canada, all these ranges form the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. North America's premier mountain wilderness, it was established as a national park and preserve in 1980.
Alaska Sightseeing - Backcountry Connection LLC
From the many glaciers of the park, there are meandering rivers and braided streams, and the largest is the Copper River. Home to the famous Copper River Red Salmon, it forms the park's western boundary. The Copper River rises in the Wrangell Mountains and empties into the Gulf of Alaska.

While vast in size, there are only two unpaved roads which penetrate the park's interior. They are the McCarthy Road and the Nabesna Road. The McCarthy Road extends 61 miles from Chitina to the Kennicott River. It is west of McCarthy, along the old Copper River and Northwestern Railroad route (see McCarthy/Kennicott for history). The Nabesna Road is accessed from Slana on the Tok Road Cutoff.

This is a park for wilderness-oriented activities, such as:

Ice Climbing
Glacier Hiking
River Rafting
Dog Mushing

All these activities and more can be enjoyed in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve


Copper was discovered in the Kennicott & McCarthy area in 1900. It turned out to be one of the richest deposits of copper ore ever found. With financial backing from men like the Guggenheim brothers, the copper claims were bought and mining began. The next hurdle was to transport the copper ore from the mines to Cordova, where it was shipped to Tacoma, Washington. Railroad construction began in 1908 at Cordova and stretched 196 miles to the copper mines. This railroad bed is the same road you travel on during your Backcountry Connection shuttle. Kennicott* processed more than 591,535 tons of copper ore and employed about 800 workers from 1911 to 1938.

Kennicott Mine, AlaskaThe town of Kennicott grew quickly with a hospital, store, grade school, dental office, dairy, and bunkhouses were built for the mines' operations. There were town dances, Christmas festivities, winter basketball games, an ice-skating rink and tennis courts.

Kennicott was a "company town" with strict conduct rules. Just down the hill, McCarthy grew into a miners' and railroaders' town. They had restaurants, pool halls, saloons, newspapers, dress and photography shops.

Today, the area is a national historic landmark. The National Park Service purchased many of the remaining structures, but several are still privately owned. At present, the National Park Service is working to stabilize the site and buildings are locked for visitor safety. However, tours into some of the buildings are available through private guided services.

McCarthy and Kennicott have about 35 year-round residents. Access to the area is via a footbridge. There is another shuttle service available from McCarthy to Kennicott, which are 5 miles apart. Lodging, restaurants, gift shops, guided ice climbing, glacier treks, river rafting, air taxis, museum, mine and mill buildings all await you at Kennicott & McCarthy.

*Kennecott: The mine is spelled "Kennecott"; the town is spelled "Kennicott".


Chitina had its beginning as a supply and railroad stop of the Copper River & Northwestern Railway. Back in 1908, it was the primary town between Cordova and Kennicott, during the days of the Kennecott Copper Mine. A surveying engineer, Otto Nelson, owned much of the town in 1914. It consisted of 5 hotels, a general store, movie theatre, several bars, restaurants and dance halls. When the mine and railroad were abandoned in 1938, Chitina became a ghost town; however, some of these buildings still exist.

Today, Chitina is best known for its subsistence fishing, from dipnetting at O'Brien Creek to fishwheels near the Copper River Bridge. Most of Chitina's current population relies on a subsistence lifestyle that includes hunting, trapping, and fishing.

From Chitina to the Kennicott Footbridge, the gravel road meanders atop the old railroad bed. Here spikes are still a visible hazard to vehicles driving above 25 mph.

Kennicott Shuttle
HC 60 Box 284M 
Copper Center, AK 99573



Kennicott Shuttle
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