Kennecott Copper Mine

Finally knocked this one off the bucket list! It was so worth the wait. James and I took a weekend trip down to the famed Kennecott Copper Mine, which is an abandoned copper mine in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. To differentiate: Kennecott is the tiny little “town” where the workers both worked and lived in dorms. About 3 miles away is the tiny of McCarthy. (Yes, nearly a third of the town was murdered in the 80’s. The entire town being a population of 22.)

From the pictures we thought it looked SO COOL. Plus with my husband being a mine engineer that stuff fascinates us. 🙂

The drive down there took about 7 hours from Fairbanks.

If you like visiting quirky places, definitely go! Honestly, I’m really not sure how to describe this place. First crazy thing we did was stop at this big bridge and wriggled our way onto the catwalk underneath it. If you’re afraid of heights, DON’T DO THIS! I though it was awesome. We had lots of laughs, because we were told there was a ladder to get up here. Definitely no ladder. We had to shimmy our way up.

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So you get to McCarthy, and you have to park your car and walk across the foot bridge. There are no vehicles past this point unless you have purchased a special permit. Parking is $5.

We were picked up by a shuttle from the place we stayed at called Blackburn Cabins. Highly recommend them! Cutest little cabins, with the comfiest beds ever. Only slightly awkward part was the outhouses…I have no issue with outhouses, but these had a see-through screen on them. Thankfully no one was ever around when I had to go.  😂 Also, they are very eco-friendly and the toilet paper was to be put into a brown paper bag instead of the toilet. Like I said, a quirky little place.

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Blackburn cabins has bikes that you can use so we tooled around a bit and biked down to a little spot to view the glaciers. We could hear them calving and everything. Very cool! To clarify, all that brown dirt–that’s the glacier. They get covered in dirt and rocks so are not always the pure white color you think of. After that we biked down to McCarthy (the cabins are about halfway between Kennecott and McCarthy) where we explored the teensy little town and ate dinner at The Potato. Delicious food and super delicious Latte’s. A little surprising for this tiny place! This is the main street of McCarthy. Totally adorable.

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The next day we finally went up to Kennecott. You have to take another shuttle unless you want to walk. To take the shuttle you go into McCarthy and buy a ticket at the shuttle building. They run quite often, I want to say every 1/2 hour, maybe every 15 minutes. Then you all pile in and drive up to Kennecott! Once up there, you can either just wander around on your own, or take the mill tour, which I highly recommend. Maybe we’re just nerds, but we had an absolute blast! I get bored very easily with tours, but not this one. It was totally cool. They take you to the top of the mill and work your way down. The mill shut down in a matter of 24 hours, so there are still tools just lying there like the men left them. Insane!

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The picture above is from the top of the mill. Why yes, yes it was a little sketchy looking. Just the way I like it! 😀

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Had to take a selfie with my head sticking out of the mill once we got to the bottom level. 😉

We took the tour first and THEN walked around on our own which worked out perfect. Some of the buildings you can enter on your own, but the tour took us places that were otherwise locked.

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That’s one of the glacier fields looking down from it from one of the buildings.

After taking a bazillion pictures we took the short hike to the foot of Root Glacier. (I think it was Root…there are 3 glaciers all sorta connected…) They do have guided tours of the glaciers where you can rent equipment. We didn’t have enough time, so just meandered a little ways onto the glacier. Glaciers are very fascinating and not at all what I originally had expected. (As in all the rocks.)

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By that time we were super hungry and ate lunch at the lodge. You can also stay at the Kennecott Lodge if you don’t like to rough it in little cabins with see-through toilets. 😀 Very fun relaxing lunch looking out over the glaciers.

My only regret is that we weren’t able to stay at least another day or so. I would have loved to do more hiking and exploring. But, we packed a lot in and I’m so thankful we were able to experience this place!!

**Other tips on visiting Kennecott:

  • Stop at the Visitor Center in Chitina. (Pronounced Chit-na) They are a wealth of information. Ask for the audio CD. 😀
  • Bring layers, especially if you are planning on checking out the glaciers!
  • Make sure to have a spare tire for your car and other emergency equipment. Our tire went flat on the way home…thankfully we were prepared.
  • Bring bear spray just in case. While we didn’t actually see any bears, we saw bear scat EVERYWHERE.
  • There are a limited number of places to eat. Our favorite was The Potato in McCarthy, but the Lodge in Kennecott also had good food. There’s also a little pastry/coffee shop right across from the shuttle stop in McCarthy.
  • We did not have cell reception so keep that in mind.
  • Bring an extra battery for the camera!

 

 

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