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The History of McCarthy, Alaska

A Guide to McCarthy & Kennicott, Alaska

    McCarthy lies 61 miles east of Chitina off the Edgerton Highway. It is on the Kennicott River at the mouth of McCarthy Creek, 12 miles northeast of the junction of the Nizina and Chitina Rivers, in the heart of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. It lies at approximately 61 26' N Latitude, 142 55' W Longitude (Sec. 16, T005S, R014E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Chitina Recording District. The area encompasses 101 sq. miles of land and 1 sq. miles of water.

    The Kennecott copper mines and camp were established about 1908 across from the Kennicott Glacier, five miles north of McCarthy. An early misspelling named the mine and mining company Kennecott, while the town, river and glacier are spelled Kennicott. In 1911, the Copper River & Northwestern Railway carried its first car load of ore from Kennecott to Cordova. Since no gambling or drinking were allowed at the town of Kennicott, nearby McCarthy developed as a colorful diversion for the miners. It provided a newspaper, stores, hotels, restaurants, saloons, a red light district, housing over 800 residents. Kennicott became a company town with homes, a school, hospital, gym, tennis court and silent movie theater. Over its 30-year operation, $200 million in ore was extracted from Kennecott, the richest concentration of copper ore known in the world. In 1938, the mines closed and both towns were abandoned.

Alaska Homesteads, Inc.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development