Tag Archives: copper

Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark

National Parks Week: Day Five

Kennecott

Within Wrangell-St Elias National Park is the old mill town of Kennecott. In 1900, two prospectors, “Tarantula” Jack Smith and Clarence Warner, spotted a green patch in the hills, but thought it was an odd location for a meadow. It turned out to be malachite mixed with chalcocite (copper glance). It was the beginning of the Bonanza Claim.

Kennecott Mine in its heyday

A group called the Alaska Syndicate, which included Daniel Guggenhiem and J.P. Morgan, was formed. Kennecott had five mines: Bonanza, Jumbo, Mother Lode, Erie, and Glacier. Between 1909 and 1938 over 4.6 million tons of ore was processed, which produced 1.183 billion pounds of copper.

Gilahina Trestle Bridge, CR&NW RR; Camera: Rolleiflex

To haul the ore out of the remote location of Kennecott, operations needed a railroad. Michael Heney received the right of way up to the Copper River, and started to build the Copper Line in 1906. Meanwhile, Myron Rogers received a four year contract from Guggenheim to build the Northwestern Line, which he started in 1907. That same year, Heney sold the Copper Line to the Alaska Syndicate.

The Million Dollar Bridge

The Miles Glacier Bridge, more commonly known as the Million Dollar Bridge, was one of many obstacles that the Kennecott Corporation faced in building the railroad. The bridge, completed in 1910, came with a whopping $1.4 million dollar price tag. A small nugget when compared with the $100 million profits the mine provided investors.

The last spike, a copper spike, was driven on 29 March 1911, and the first load of copper ore soon traveled down the tracks. The Copper River and Northwestern Railroad, also known locally & affectionately, as the Can’t Run & Never Will, was in operation.

Looking up at the CR&NW

Today, the road to McCarthy and Kennecott is the old CR&NW railroad bed. For years, the drive out to Kennecott was an adventure in avoiding railroad spikes. Many a tire was punctured by an old leftover spike from the Copper River & Northwestern.

I have been out to Kennecott many times. Currently, the mine ruins are undergoing a stabilization. Some buildings, like the post office, are being restored, but for the most part, the National Park Service is just trying to keep them from complete collapse. The new roofs on the buildings are obviously a great start.


Kennecott Mine

Film Friday:

A visit to Kennecott Copper Mine

Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak 120, Ektar 100


Not all that glitters in Alaska is gold

This 5495 pound copper nugget was uncovered near Dan Creek, in the Wrangell Mountains, during placer mining activities in 1936.

Copper ore was originally discovered in a lode at the mouth of Dan Creek in July of 1899. The Nikolai Mine was founded the next year. The Bonanza ore body was discovered in August of 1900.

Jade is the official gem stone of Alaska. This 3550 pound jade boulder was found near the Kobuk River. Some jade boulders have been found within the state weighing upwards of two tons. Jade Mountain, on the Seward Peninsula, is an entire mountain of jade.


Green jade from Jade Mountain

At the 450 foot level on the West Wall of the Washington Monument, is a stone from the State of Alaska, honoring George Washington. Inserted into the wall on February 22, 1982, the two foot by three foot stone is made out of jade from Jade Mountain.