“Time don’t fly, it bounds and leaps” John Prine
Fall in the Wrangells. Nature performs another crescendo. It gets dark again. The stars are visible at night, along with your breath. The soap berry bushes have withered, while the cranberries ripen into robust translucent orbs. All the animals are fat. Everyday is crisper. The air tastes like it has fermented in the mountaintops. The colors are starting to peak. The change is perceptible in real time. It’s fall. Everyone is exultant, even stupefied. Commenting on the season is required conversation. It’s like standing beside the ocean. It really can’t be ignored. Certain phenomenons are just like big cosmic turbines generating a profound amount of WOW voltage. A clear night sky bursting with stars is like that, same with horizon events, sunsets and sunrises. Seasons, no matter how many you’ve lived through, are like that too. The whole landscape, the world as we know it, revolts, morphs, and revolutionizes seemingly overnight.
One attraction of McCarthy/Kennicott is the abundance of old copper mining structures. In a large part, the minign operations of one-hundred years ago are why this place exists right now. Because of copper, a hundred or so people, including myself, have a real fun job for the summer. What follows is a simplified history of the Kennicott mine, summarized and paraphrased from the myalskan.com website; or to view pictures simply scroll down, following bold prompts.
Starting around the turn of last century copper was discovered in this area by an enterprising prospector. This turned out to be one of the largest copper deposits ever found. Within four years a major copper mining operation was under way, complete with a railroad and the fledgling mining town of Kennicott. The railway, the Copper River Northwestern Railway, was considered to be one of the great engineering marvels of its time, crossing ravines, wild rivers, and mountains on its way to Cordova, Alaska. During the Alaskan winters the world’s largest rotary snow plows were brought in to clear the tracks. Every spring massive trestles and bridges had to be rebuilt after being washed away by the spring flood. For almost forty years the mining operation flourished, collecting over $200 million worth of copper, a substantial amount of money for the time. During it’s peak Kennicott boasted a population of 800 people, a hospital with dental office, an elementary school, recreation hall, a silent movie theater, ballpark, skating rink, tennis court, and a dairy.
As a result of the Industrial Age and WW1 Kennicott was able to remain successful for almost four decades. However, by the end of the 1930’s, the copper market took a decline, and the mine was forced to shut down. The company informed the resident’s and employees of the company they had two hours to pack up and leave. In the hurry, many possessions . . . . keep reading/picture gallery