The former mining town of McCarthy offers Anchorage pilots a unique opportunity to soak up some Alaska history while visiting the country’s largest national park. Located within Wrangell St. Elias National Park -- the only “intact Bush community” within a national park -- McCarthy was established after copper was discovered between Kennicott Glacier and McCarthy Creek.
The company town of Kennecott developed in 1900 for the hundreds of miners who worked for the Kennecott Mining Company, and McCarthy became the more comfortable location for bars, a hospital, gymnasium and brothels. More than 200 million dollars worth of copper ore was extracted from the mine in its three decades of operation.
In 1938, the mine was closed. Both Kennecott and McCarthy became virtual ghost towns. There are now 30 full time residents in McCarthy and the mine is owned and maintained by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark. There has been an immense effort by the park service over the past few years to preserve the buildings in the area, which is considered the best remaining example of early 20th Century copper mining.
Flying a Cessna 180 east about 200 miles from Anchorage, pilots can expect a flight to McCarthy Airport to take less than two hours. Located a couple miles from town, visitors can walk down the dirt road and visit the many restored buildings. Before you leave the airport, though, you might want to venture over to the old airfield and see the original Cordova Air Service Cabin owned by the park service. It's in the process of being nominated to the National Register of Historical Places. Merle “Mudhole” Smith and Kirk Kirkpatrick two of the many Bush pilots who at one point worked for Cordova Air.