KGL News

Summer in Kennicott

Christina Kirkwood - Monday, August 18, 2014

By Morgan Falzone

The sun reflects brightly off the Root Glacier, steady streams of hikers parade past the lodge en route to adventures, wildflowers bloom with enthusiasm along the trails…the summer season is in full swing here at Kennicott. The largest national park in the United States, Wrangell-St. Elias covers 13.2 million acres of stunning Alaskan landscape.

Glacier hikes and river tours provide an intimate look at the park, but for the big picture, flight seeing is the way to go. Wrangell Mountain Air offers a variety of trips ranging from 35 minute jaunts to 90 minute excursions. I recently had the opportunity to get out on the 50 minute Backcountry Tour – what an experience! My fellow flight-seers and I met our pilot, Austin, at the McCarthy airstrip (which has one of the best views in town), and loaded into the red and yellow plane. We donned our aviation headsets and readied our cameras before Austin whisked us into the air. Through the subtle hum of the engine through the headsets, Austin immediately started pointing out the surrounding features and explaining the geography of the area.

The Backcountry Tour began by following the Nizina river until we reached the confluence of the Rohn and Regal glaciers, where they merge into the Nizina Glacier. Looking out, you see expansive glaciers, endless mountains, stunning blue glacial pools, the Mile High Cliffs, and even one of the rare rock glaciers, before coasting off for closer views of the Stairway Icefall and Mount Blackburn. From this distance, you see that the slight ripples observed from Kennicott are really massive ice pillars looming hundreds of feet high. The flight-seeing tours certainly help you gain a bit of perspective for the grandiose scale of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. In fact, since only a fraction of the park is road accessible, flying is the only way to see the further reaches. Many guests swear that the most spectacular way to explore the area is from the air. And after such an incredible personal experience, who am I to disagree?

If you’re looking for an up close look at the mining town of Kennecott, you can hop on the Mill Tour hosted by the St. Elias Alpine Guiding company. Their 2-2 ½ hour tour takes you around town and through the iconic 14-story processing mill. The mill building reopened this summer after being closed for repairs and is definitely worth a look! Our friendly front desk staff can help you with scheduling and reservations upon your arrival.

In other news, the once infamous McCarthy road, which is already in relatively good shape, is about to get even less rugged. The Department of Transportation has begun work on 14 of the 60 mile road, covering it with emulsified asphalt and crushed rock. This will be the first time any part of the road has been improved beyond simple grading – improving the driving experience and shaving a bit of time off the journey. In the meantime, however, the roadwork may result in some delays. Once you reach Kennicott, you can nip over to the gift shop and buy an "I survived the McCarthy Road" T-Shirt and wear it as you relax on our porch or go about your adventures.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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