Yukon Territory

McCarthy Road into Kennecott Mine, Alaska

27 August 2010 - Friday

The morning dawned quietly. We were a bit late getting up and most of the other folks who had planned to drive into McCarthy were already gone! By the time our dog walk was done, it was 10 a.m. when we hit the road.

Immediately the road climbed from the Copper River. At the top, the view was very nice.

The National Park Service has an informative guide about McCarthy Road (pdf file).

McCarthy Road in Alaska
View northward of the Copper River from McCarthy Road, just west of Chitina

The first 10 miles were rough. Big rocks on the road, very rough road in spots, so we just slowed it down and enjoyed the scenery.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Rough McCarthy Road westbound at N61 31.352 W144 13.472

Things got pretty exciting when I spotted some wildlife!

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Rabbit alongside McCarthy Road

I looked forward to seeing the Kuskulana Bridge at Mile 17. The trestle was constructed in 1910. 

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Kuskulana Trestle - view point approaching eastbound - N61 29.505 W144 01.143

The sign said it, this was originally a train trestle now converted to a passenger vehicle crossing. 

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Sign at the west end of the Kuskulana Bridge

One lane only - fortunately visibility is not a problem from abutment to abutment.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Approach to the Kuskulana Bridge - N61 29.441 W144 00.891

The east side of the bridge has a good rest area with information signs about the bridge and its history. There are also some paths to the underside of the bridge for those that like to explore. 

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Kuskulana Bridge viewed from the east abutment

Carrying on the road eastbound was in good condition. Not very wide, but good gravel. 

McCarthy Road in Alaska
East bound on the McCarthy Road in Alaska

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Still eastbound, this picture just east of Mile 20 - N61 28.086 W143 56.990

Through this area the road shown on the GPS map did not match the route. The electronic mapping for roads in Alaska seems to not be accurate. In this instance, the GPS indicated the road was a few hundred yards to the south.

A bit east of Chokosna Lake there were a couple of Trumpeter swans in a wetland area.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Trumpeter swans alongside McCarthy Road - N61 27.379 W143 47.898

Trumpeter Swans

Next was at the historical Gilahina Trestle at Mile 29. There was a spot to park and paths to explore.

Gilahina Trestle on McCarthy Road in Alaska
Gilahina Trestle viewed from the parking area at Mile 29 - N61 26.291 W143 43.171

The trestle is constructed from a combination of logs and timbers.

Gilahina Trestle on McCarthy Road in Alaska
Looking up from underneath the Gilahina Trestle

It was interesting poking around the trestle.
Hard to imagine the ore-laden trains that crossed this bridge decades ago!

Gilahina Trestle on McCarthy Road in Alaska
Looking north through the Gilahina Trestle on McCarthy Road

Next stop was prompted by the flag person at the Lakina River. The bridge had been damaged months before and it had a load limit of 6,000 lbs. The crews were driving trucks similar to ours, so obviously knew we were over the limit. The flag person poked around, then asked about the 160 lb. motorcycle in the truck box, then snickered when he said, "You're obviously under the limit" (wink). Then told us to take it slow and easy.

On our way back, a truck with camper was not permitted to cross. The driver of the truck was being quite verbal with his anger! The bridge was slated for replacement in October 2010.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Approaching the damaged Lakina River bridge eastbound - N61 22.452 W143 21.105

As we crossed I took a picture southward out the truck window.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
View south from the Lakina River bridge 

Not too many miles until the "end of the road".  There wasn't much to indicate that the road was nearing the end.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Eastbound near Mile 50 of the McCarthy Road

I had read about the parking fees near the pedestrian bridge. Had also read it was possible to park further from the bridge for no cost. Saw a parking lot by a tour operator's building so went in to ask where the free parking was. He told us we could park in their lot for no cost and gave us a tag to put in the window. He said it was used to make sure they knew if a car was in the lot too many days, possibly indicating someone was lost in the bush.

Before leaving the truck we loaded the day packs with food and water for humans and dog. The sky was starting to clear of clouds and it was getting warm.

It was a 500m (third of a mile) walk to the bridge. In the image below, the Kennecott mine buildings are on the left side just above the tree line.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
Looking north on the Kennicott River at the pedestrian bridge into McCarthy.

The setting for the mine is awe-inspiring!

View of Kennicott Mine from McCarthy Road
The Kennecott mine viewed from McCarthy Road

And finally, a picture of the pedestrian bridge. Looks wide enough for an ATV to cross.

McCarthy Road in Alaska
The pedestrian bridge across the Kennicott River - N61 26.032 W142 56.627

It was about 12:30 p.m. We figured we had just enough time to walk into McCarthy to catch the 1 p.m. shuttle to the mine. Pictures of the mine site on the next page... ...   

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