Wrangell-St. Elias National Park's Mining History


The Kennecott Power Plant and Mount Blackburn. NPS photo.

Kurt Repanshek's picture

Long before they were the backdrop for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the mountains in this part of Alaska gave birth to one of the most incredible copper mines in the hemisphere.

While most copper mines of the day were lucky if their ores were comprised of 10 percent copper, the ores taken from the Kennecott Mine were as much as 85 percent copper. Just as incredible, though, is the story of how the mine was built and the hardships and challenges that were overcome to mine the ore and ship it to smelting facilities in Tacoma, Washington.

This 12-minute video, which is decidedly not high definition in quality, tells that story.


Even if you're "just passing through" this area and don't have time to get off the main highway and into this magnificent park, be sure to stop at the park headquarters and visitor center complex. It's one of the most attractive facilities of it's kind in the NPS, and offers an excellent orientation movie about the park. There's a short, easy trail at the visitor center with a nice view into the park itself.

We went for a hike on the glacier with St. Elias Alpine Guides and it was the highlight of our trip! The tour of Kennecott is very interesting as well. This area is a gem - worth the drive down the long bumpy road!

A good followup to this item would be an article detailing the controversy surrounding the bringing of this area into the park, the decision makers behind that idea, and the resultant waste and difficulties foisted upon the Service with that decision. This would be particularly timely considering that the name of one of those primary decision makers is now being bandied about as a nominee for Director of the National Park Service.