The historic mining town of Kennicott, now a National Historic Landmark, was purchased by the National Park Service in 1998. The city is one of the finest surviving examples of an early-20th-century copper-mining community. The high-grade copper found in the area resulted in a self-contained company town complete with a hospital, general store, schoolhouse, ball field, skating rink, tennis courts, recreation hall, and dairy. If early-century ghost towns are your thing, you should also check out Chisana.
Copper mining may have inspired some of the early prospectors to travel to Wrangell, but it was the discovery of gold in Chisana that began the last great gold rush in Alaska. Visit "the largest log cabin town in the world," where thousands of stampeders made the treacherous journey through rugged country by whatever means possible to reach the new found mining district. This short boom, only lasting a few years, was an important part of the town's history.
Kayak along the coastline of Wrangell-St. Elias which stretches 150 miles from Icy Bay, approximately 40 miles north of Yakutat. Most of this coastline is wild and exposed to the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska or Yakutat Bay. Once you arrive at Icy Bay, relax and enjoy the scenic wildlife as you paddle through the relatively calm waters.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve contains approximately 13.2 million acres of public land in south central Alaska. Guests can enjoy a day of sport hunting in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve. Even as subsistence hunting by local rural residents is authorized in both the park and preserve, all hunting must be conducted in accordance with state law.
Accessing remote lakes in the Park or Preserve by float plane can be a unique wilderness experience in itself. Guests will travel to popular fly-in fishing destinations such as the Tebay, Summit, Rock, Ptarmigan, Copper and Tanada lakes.
Explore the coastline of the park, all 12 miles of sandy beach between Sudden Stream and Point Manby. For unparalleled views of mountains, test your limits and try the trail-less two-week hike through the Chugach Mountains to Goodlata Peak.
Superb mountaineering experiences found nowhere else in the world exist here. Wrangell-St. Elias was set aside to preserve the foothills, glaciers and peaks of the Wrangell, Chugach and St. Elias mountain ranges. The coastal mountains in the range, topped by 18,008' Mt. St. Elias, are among the least visited mountains of their elevation and include many of the highest mountains and largest ice fields in North America.
Wrangell-St. Elias contains one of the largest concentrations of Dall sheep in North America; look for them along rocky ridges and mountainsides. In the fall, bears and other animals may be sighted near salmon spawning streams. Other species of large mammals include mountain goats, caribou, moose, brown, grizzly and black bear and two herds of transplanted bison.
Catch a glimpse of marine mammals along the coastal areas of the park. You can also spot small mammals such as lynx, and wolverines and different breeds of salmon and wild fish in the park spawning waters.
Despite the vast amount of wildlife in Wrangell-St. Elias, dense brush and forest along the roads obstruct natural views. Therefore, the best setting for viewing wildlife is from alpine areas above tree lines.
Home to the Ahtna Athabaskan natives, they traveled the river corridors, foothills, and passes of the Wrangell Mountains for several hundred years prior to European arrival in the area. Copper, found near the present-day town of McCarthy, was used for tools and for trade with other native groups. Rumors of the copper deposits, as well as the lure of fur animals, attracted Russians into the Copper River Basin for an extended period from the 1760s to 1867.
These journeys eventually led to mineral development of the Wrangell Mountains. The first gold discovery in the northern Wrangell Mountains was on Jacksina Creek near the headwaters of the Nabesna River in 1899. A year later, prospectors traced chalcocite to deposits on Bonanza Ridge, which eventually became the incredibly rich Bonanza Mine, one of five mines that supplied copper and silver ore to the now-historic Kennicott Mill.
The Kennicott mines did not go into full production until 1911, when the completion of a 196-mile-long railroad from Cordova, near the mouth of the Copper River, to the Kennicott mining town allowed transport of the rich copper concentrate. In 27 years of operation, over a billion pounds of ore valued at $100 to 300 million was hauled on the railroad.
The mine and the railroad were abandoned in 1938, when the rich ore was exhausted. The railroad bed now provides the base for most of the Chitina-McCarthy Road along the south flank of the Wrangell Mountains in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
After the Kennicott mines closed, several efforts were made to revive mining interest in the area. Ernest Gruening, Director of U.S. Territories and later Alaska's governor and a U.S. Senator, was the first to recommend the area as a national park or monument.
Passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971 authorized the Federal government to withdraw and study Federal lands in Alaska for future uses. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the area a National Monument because of its scientific and cultural significance. When Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, the Wrangell Mountains became part of the 13.2 million acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest U.S. National Park.
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