Have you ever explored a place and felt like you could almost experience with all your senses what life was like for the people who lived there long ago? That’s how I felt during my visit to Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark. The old mining town (see a map here) has been beautifully preserved and is being carefully restored, little by little. The result is an unforgettable piece of history deep in the Alaskan wilderness, far from civilization and at the end of a questionable road with no other way in or out.
The mill is one of the oldest freestanding wooden structures in the world, I believe. The tour that took us through the 14-story building was impressive and well worth the money, as we were escorted all throughout the old building (which involved making our way down many sets of steep, narrow stairways that were more like ladders!). The whole building had that awesome old wood smell, and most of the machines and contraptions laborers had used to process the copper were still intact enough to get the general idea.
Several mines in the mountains extracted ore from some of the richest copper veins that had ever been found. A railroad was built from Cordova to Kennecott in the early 1900s through nearly impossible terrain and weather, and now visitors can drive on the McCarthy Road (built over the last sixty miles of the old railroad) to get to Kennecott.
The whole area was bought by the National Park Service, and a tour company runs glacier and mill-town tours. Kennicott Glacier Lodge (yes, the mine and the lodge/town/glacier have been spelled differently for decades) offers rooms and a formal dining area. I could've spent hours just wandering around in the lodge and reading all the early-1900s advertisements they had on the walls! Back on the main street (more like a path) are a few gift shops and more old buildings you can explore and watch videos and or read more history. A handful of people live in the town year-round, but other than that, you’re surrounded by blissful nature and history, history, and more history!
I’m not the type who loves to read all the informational signs in museums or places like this (my husband does!), but I think I almost could have here! I can’t say enough how many fascinating things we learned on the tour and throughout the town. This place was seriously amazing, and I can only imagine the stories kids who grew up here could tell!
If you get the chance to visit Alaska (or you live here already), GO to Kennecott if you can! It quickly became one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been in Alaska. Between the mill town, hiking on the glacier, and driving the unique McCarthy Road, this trip was unforgettable!
I'm a mom of twins, published author, editor, amateur photographer, and nature enthusiast with an unlimited supply of curiosity. Come discover the little wonders I find during my everyday life in Alaska.
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