Monday, July 15, 2013

Kennecott Copper Mine

We started our day at Kennecott Copper Mine with a guided walking tour. The copper deposit was discovered in the Wrangle Mountain Range by prospectors in 1900.  Stephen Birch found financial backers to support the mine's development. The biggest obstacle was building a railroad line 196 miles long to transport the copper to the coastal town of Cordova for shipping. In 1906 the railroad line construction began and in 1911 the line was completed.

The opening of the mine was driven by a dramatic increase in the need for copper. Copper was needed for electricity, pipes and in support of WWI.

In the distance is the 14-story mine where the ore was brought in and sorted.

On the left is a white building that was the hospital which boasted the first x-ray machine in Alaska. The two red buildings on the right were bunk houses or dormitories. We were able to walk through one of these buildings that has been stabilized. The creek has flooded several times over the last sixty years which has caused most of the damage to the buildings.

The copper ran out and the mine was abruptly shut down on Nov. 10, 1938. Residents were given just a few hours notice of the last train's departure time. The buildings were left deserted until the 1960s when a new developer tried to extract more copper from the tailings but the venture failed before it got started. In the 1980s a seasonal tourist industry started to develop and really took off in the 1990s.

We had lunch at this bus restaurant that was pretty tasty...freshly made pizza.

Then we explored the newly built Kennecott Glacier Lodge. This is a bunk-house style hotel.  Small rooms with a bed, a sink, electrical outlets and internet...but shared bathrooms down the hall with showers.

We then hiked up above the mine. What looks like piles of dirt between the mine and the mountains is really silt-covered glacial flows from three glaciers.

On our last day at Kennecott the weather was a little nicer so we did a flying tour of the mine...

and the three glaciers that flow in front of the mine.

Here is part of a glacier flow with a river of glacial water.

The three glacier flows converge and push against each other as they creep down the mountain valley.

Another view of the glacier flow.

More glacier flows...the glacier flows also had silt covered portions so it looks like rows of dirt mixed with ice. There are opportunities to do glacier hikes and ice climbing through outfitters in the area.

Our last look at the mine...

and the two buildings of the Kennecott Glacier Lodge (large white roofs).


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

that's pretty neat - I have never heard of this old mining town - of course there is a lot of places in Alaska I have never heard of LOL. I love going through old mining towns though and have seen some in Montana and Colorado plus small ones in Idaho and other mountain states - they are all always deserted and no one living in them any more.

Kathy said...

Our town has been mining copper/zinc for 80 years and I wonder how many people will visit long after it closes. I fear the end is in sight.
Love the pictures of the glaciers!

Donna quilts said...

Great photos! The glacier flows are amazing. I think it's great that historical places like this are available for people to discover and explore.