Day 33, Monday, 5/21/18
McCarthy, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

After a breakfast of the famous McCarthy Muffin, Chris, Glen and I piled into the van and left for McCarthy. This trip to McCarthy was was the highlight of our entire trip! We headed up 4 through Thompson Pass towards Tonsina where we dropped the Chugach and picked up the Wrangell's to the east. A few miles past Tonsina we took a right on 10 towards Kenny lake and finally onto McCarthy Road in Chitina. The entrance to McCarthy road is through a narrow split in rock that peripherally reminded me of Dante's entrance to hell. The road is mostly a dirt and gravel and runs for about 60 miles along the Chitina River then deep into the beautiful Wrangells. Top speed was 35 MPH with a large part of the time doing a third of that. It was a glorious, bone-shaking, van-rattling, wash-boarding 3 hour drive!

'Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'entrate'
The road goes ever on...
...but quite beautiful
The Copper River drains a large area of the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains to the Gulf of Alaska. It's also the site of what some claim to be the best Sockeye salmon in the world. We crossed over the Copper River Bridge, at the confluence of the Chitina and Copper Rivers. Near the bridge, the Chitina is over a mile wide! These rivers are glacial and full of sediment, turning the water  murky brown. Because of this, the indigenous people use dip nets and fish wheels to catch salmon.

Fish Wheels in the Distance
Once we crossed over the Copper / Chitina confluence, the road paralleled the Chitina.

Chitina River
McCarthy was an offshoot of the Kennecott Copper Mine. The mine started operating in 1911 and was a 'dry' town - all work and no play. Originally called Shushana Junction, McCarthy with its saloons, brothels, hotels, and various stores became the social center for the workmen at the mine. By 1938, the mine had  played out and the mining town of Kennecott was abandoned, leaving only a few hardy year-round residents in McCarthy.

Both towns are over 100 years old. Over the course of the mine's life, nearly $200 million worth of copper was processed. The national park now owns it and is in the process of rebuilding much of Kennecott to its original specs. McCarthy is privately owned even though it is in the middle of the largest US National Park, Wrangell St. Elias.

Railway Bridge to the Mine
Bridge to Nowhere

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