Monday, November 5, 2012

McCarthy/Kennicott is located in the Wrangell Mountains and is surrounded by the Wrangell St. Elias National Park which is four times the size of Yellowstone National Park. The town of Kennicott was founded to mine the copper from the mines discovered in the late 1800's. The town of McCarthy was founded by John Barrett and was the place where the trains carrying the oar were turned around to back up to the mine as the mine was on a hillside and there was no room to turn the trains around up there. The town of Blackburn was located near the present day airport and was a collection of homes and shops that today only exists on a map.

The oar was taken by train (Copper River and Northwestern Railway) 196 miles to Cordova, Alaska. The train was built by financiers JP Morgan and the Guggenheim families for over $30 million US and was completed in 1911. The railroad construction was managed by the same man who built the railroad from Skagway to Whitehorse during the gold rush to Dawson, Yukon. The oar was then put on ships going to Tacoma, Washington for smelting. During this period over 4.625 million tons of copper valued at $207 million US was mined. The investors made approximately $100 million US. The last train in 1938. When I list these dollar figures one has to keep in mind what prices were during that period. We'd be talking $3.6 trillion US at today's price of copper. Amazing!

The mine is now being renovated by the National Park Service and visitors can take tours, including a tour of the mill, which is absolutely a must. The mine was listed as a National Historic Site in 1986.

Related Links:
Cooper River and Northwestern Railway
McCarthy & the old Kennicott Copper Mine
Kennicott, Alaska
McCarthy, Alaska