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Wrangell St. Elias National Park

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Things to See & Do -

Wrangell St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States and one of the least visited. Most visitors to the park spend time in the Kennicott - McCarthy area. Kennicott was a rich copper mine in the early 1900's, and a bustling community was created by the Kennicott Copper Company. The mine and the town were abandoned in the late 1930's, and Kennicott and its sister town, McCarthy have had just a few dozen permanent residents since.

Today, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Kennicott and McCarthy are among Alaska's best kept secrets, with spectacular scenery and great adventure activities, including river rafting, hiking and glacier treks, ice climbing, flightseeing and historical tours of the old Kennicott Mill building. In addition, the towns offer a truly Alaskan experience; a small town in the middle of a vast wilderness, but with great hospitality and some of Alaska's most friendly people.

Places To Eat  

For a small town, Kennicott and McCarthy offer some very good options for meals. McCarthy Lodge offers full service dining. Guests at Ma Johnson's Hotel enjoy a full American breakfast here every morning. In Kennicott, Kennicott Glacier Lodge offers family-style meals for guests. In McCarthy, The Potato offers meals to eat in or to go.

Places to Stay

Lodging choices in the Kennicott and McCarthy area are limited to two very nice properties: Kennicott Glacier Lodge and Ma Johnson's Hotel. Kennicott Glacier Lodge is located among the historic buildings in Kennicott itself. Ma Johnson's Hotel in McCarthy was a rooming house in its early days, and has been restored and furnished with furniture and artifacts from the original townsite. Walking into the lobby is like stepping back to 1920.

Geography

Wrangell St. Elias National Park is in the southeastern part of mainland Alaska, and stretches from the Gulf of Alaska and Copper River, east and north to the Canadian Border. The land is dominated by the Wrangell Mountains and its numerous volcanic peaks. These peaks are heavily glaciated, and a significant portion of the park is covered by permanent icefields and glaciers.

McCarthy and Kennicott are on the southeast edge of Kennicott Glacier, which flows off the slopes of Mt. Blackburn. The glacier itself flows past both towns, ending just a few hundred yards from the center of McCarthy. Just upstream from Kennecott, the Root Glacier flows into the Kennicott Glacier, and guided hikes are available on the ice itself. The meltwater from the glacier forms a large lake, and guests can sit on the shores and watch ice and boulders tumble into the lake. The lake empties into the Kennicott River, and guests to McCarthy and Kennicott must cross a footbridge across the river to get to town.

Climate

Much of Wrangell St. Elias National Park is covered in glaciers, and the climate is more or less unchanged since the ice age. However, glaciers in the park area are for the most part retreating, just as they are in most of the world. The portions of the park at lower elevations have climates that are very typical of Alaska. Interior portions are relatively dry with warm summers and cold winters. Coastal sections are cool and moist all year. McCarthy and Kennicott are in the interior regions, with temperatures typically in the 60's and low 70's in the summer. Winter temperatures can get as cold as -40F. Snow begins falling in late September or October, and lasts on the ground until May.

 

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