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Adventure, Alpine / July 13, 2016

Independence Day In The Last frontier: McCarthy, Alaska

Written by: Renee Howard

McCarthy started out in the early 1900’s as an Alaskan frontier hub right down the road from the world’s largest copper mine at Kennecott. The community lasted about twenty-seven years until the mine was spent. One last train rolled out of town in 1938 along with just about everyone who lived there.

In the seventies a few adventure seeking youth trickled into the old town of McCarthy and started calling it home. Over the years tourism gained a little speed and McCarthy was repopulated with a seasonal and year round community. These days they offer flight services, raft guides, mountain guides, mine tours, a few accommodations, a bar, and a couple restaurants. Even still, there is only about 45 full time residents.

While standing high above Kennecott in the old copper mines precariously perched on crumbling alpine slopes it is easy see why folks call it the “mountain kingdom of North America”. The earth maintains a volatile beauty in the 13.2 million acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It is a sight that could compel you to take your hat off, cross your heart and sing the National Anthem on any day.


The Kennecot glacial moraine leaves behind mountains of dirt, ice, and braided rivers.

The Alaska flag flies high in McCarthy. Download permissions

The local marching band plays the Star Spangled Banner.

They say this is the biggest American flag for three hundred miles.

An artistic rendition of The Big Dipper on the main drag in McCarthy.

A few brave runners scrambled 7 miles through old copper tailings from Kennicott to McCarthy.

Singing our National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.

Locals and travelers make new friends at the Golden Saloon.

No shame, stuff face. Who doesn't like a pie eating contest?

Competitors in the annual pie eating contest are blissfully ignorant of the stomach ache to follow.

Copper and pure azurite can be found scattered through old mine tailings.

A piece of melting ice floats away from the ever changing glacial moraine.

Slingshots bring out the kid in everyone.

Wrangell Mountain Air is all about the big hair. Kelly, the driver, got his start flying in 1975.

McCarthy seniors don't hold back during high stakes games.

The Kennicott mine is one of the tallest wooden structures still standing in North America.

Bicycle art can be found throughout town.

A frontier mobile party.

McCarthy boasts some spectacular campsites.

Slow bike contest champion in the making.

Rafters enjoy cold, swift rapids on the Kennicott river.

The inner workings of the old Kennecott mine.

Kennicott Wilderness guides embrace feats of strength, rowdy mountain missions and shimmering spandex unitards.

The lovely ladies of Kennicott Glacier Lodge.

about the author

Renee Howard

Renee is a photographer and writer based out of South-central Alaska. Her interest in bridging gaps between all manner of outdoor sports, philosophy, folk culture and backwoods artistry is a significant motivation for her work.

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