Monday, July 4, 2016

Alaska Adventure Part Six - Base Camping

We used our campsite at Kenny Lake RV Park as our base camp for local adventures. On Saturday, we went to Valdez, Alaska. It was about a 90 minute drive. Well, add about 15 minutes. I forgot it is road construction season here.

To get to Valdez by the Richardson Highway, one must cross Thompson Pass. At 2,678 feet high in the Chugach (CHOO-gach) Mountains, it is the snowiest place in Alaska. It averages 551 inches of snow annually! I wouldn't want to be a snowplow driver for it! Although, in the winter you do have job security.

Panoramic View from Thompson Pass
Just before reaching the summit of Thompson Pass is the Worthington Glacier. It almost comes down to the road and is easily accessible for visitors. The Chugach Mountains sure are majestic!

Worthington Glacier From a Distance

Blue Ice at the Glacier

Another View of the Glacier Up Closer

Coming down off of Thompson Pass, you pass through Keystone Canyon. There are several waterfalls cascading down the canyon walls.

Bridal Veil Falls

Then it was on to Valdez. The "new" one. On March 27, 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck 40 miles west of Valdez and the resulting underwater landslide killed 30 people and did major damage to the town. It was deemed the ground under the townsite was too unstable to rebuild so Valdez was moved to a new site about four miles away. We visited two local museums about Valdez and enjoyed them both.

Sewing Room Exhibit at the Museum

We also visited the Valdez Eagle Aerie while there. It was one of the buildings moved from the original location. It's not what I would call an attractive building, but the fact they moved one of this size is impressive.

Valdez Eagles Aerie 1971

Valdez is also the terminus of the Trans Alaska Pipeline. One of the museums had a large display about the Exxon Valdez. What a mess that made. Did you know that ship (since sold and renamed) is not allowed by law to return to Valdez? The marine terminal used to give tours, but since 9/11, it is off limits. You can only view it from a distance.

Marine Terminal with Ship

On Sunday, we made the journey out to the end of the road at McCarthy. Whew! What an experience! McCarthy is about 90 miles from the campground, but it took 2.5 hours to reach. Once you reach the McCarthy Road in Chitina, it is 59 miles of mostly gravel road. Max speed of 35 mph. You start by going through a narrow cut through the rock and then over the famous Copper River. It is dipnetting season and people were camped everywhere along the road. Plus there were several fish wheels in the river near the shoreline.

Start of the McCarthy Road


Fish Wheels

Bridge Along the McCarthy Road

Driving Across Said Bridge

When you get to the end of the road, you park your car and either walk or ride your bicycle across the footbridge over the Kennecott River. From there it is about a 15 minute walk to McCarthy itself, but we caught a shuttle ride to Kennecott.

Footbridge at the End of the Road

"Rigor Mortis"


The abandoned Kennecott Mill Town now is mostly part of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Some buildings and land still remain in private ownership. The town is located beside the Kennicott Glacier. When the copper mines were finally depleted, the mines closed in 1939. The town was abandoned, leaving everything, including dishes and hospital records, where they were. Some buildings are undergoing restoration by the National Park Service. The 14-story mill building looms over the town and must be seen to fully appreciate the gigantic size. The Power Plant is also quite impressive. It was able to produce enough steam-generated electricity to power the mines up in the mountains as well as the entire town.

The Concentration Mill Building in the Background

Looking Up At The Mill

Another View of the Mill

Abandoned Buildings (whitewashed one was the hospital)

View from the Train Station

Power Plant Builiding

Inside the Power Plant


More Rusty Abandoned Equipment

On the drive back to Kenny Lake, we spotted another cow moose. It is becoming a joke that if I have the wrong lens (the shorter telephoto) on my camera, we see animals. If I have my longer lens on, then the animals never appear.

Cow Moose

Who knows when we will have good internet service again so stay tuned!


  1. So very interesting..Thank you for explaining your pictures which are truly breathtaking. I've never heard of Fish Wheels and thought perhaps it was a typo. The picture of the bridge along the McCarthy Road made my stomach flip then to read that you drove across it..Hmmm..Not too sure I would have done it..Love love love the pictures of the abandoned town. Brings me right back into the day.
    551 inches of snow? NOPE!!!
    Keep on travelin' and having a great time.

  2. Oh shoot now I remember McCarthy, how could I forget -- we stayed there in the woods and adored our tour of the Kennecott Mine. And we stayed in Valdez for a week - surprisingly we loved this place. Went on a boat tour from there of the glaciers.

  3. I so enjoy your sharing the wonderful journey you are all on. I Thank You for sharing this with all of us, would love to go sometime and now I can live it through all of you. Safe travels. Love to all, Debbie

  4. I so enjoy your sharing the wonderful journey you are all on. I Thank You for sharing this with all of us, would love to go sometime and now I can live it through all of you. Safe travels. Love to all, Debbie

  5. I would LOVE to see that mill town, especially the mill itself!
    nice photos Sally!


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