RESTAURANT & LODGING
Tonsina River LODGE
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Kennecott Mill Town
For centuries, Athabascans hunted in the area of McCarthy. Chief Nikolai and his band of Athabaskan Natives had a summer camp at Dan Creek, 15 miles east of McCarthy, where they collected copper nuggets from Dan Creek. Their permanent camp was on the Copper River at the village of Taral near Chitina where they fished for salmon.
Copper was discovered between the Kennicott Glacier and McCarthy Creek in 1900, after which Kennecott mines, Kennecott Mining Company, and company town of Kennecott were created. Due to a clerical error, the corporation and town used the spelling ofKennecott instead of Kennicott, named for Kennicott Glacier in the valley below the town. The glacier was named after Robert Kennicott, a naturalist who explored in Alaska in the mid-1800s.
The Port of Valdez was named in 1790 by Senor Fidalgo for the celebrated Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdez y Basan. due to its excellent ice-free port, a town developed in 1898 as a debarkation point for men seeking a route to the Klondike gold fields. Valdez soon became the supply center of its own gold mining region, and incorporated as a City in 1901. Tsunamis generated by the 1964 earthquake destroyed the original City, killing several residents. The community was rebuilt in a more sheltered location nearby. During the 1970's, construction of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal and other cargo transportation facilities brought rapid growth to Valdez.
is a America's Largest National Park that rises from the ocean all the way up to 18,008 ft. Mount St. Elias. At 13.2 million acres, it’s the same size as Yellowstone Nat. Park, Yosemite Nat. Park, and Switzerland combined! Within this wild landscape, people continue to live off the land as they have done for centuries. This is a rugged, beautiful area filled with opportunities for adventure.
Partly because alcoholic beverages and prostitution were forbidden in Kennecott, McCarthy grew as an area to provide illicit services not available in the company town. It grew quickly into a major town with a gymnasium, a hospital, a school, a bar and a brothel. TheCopper River and Northwestern Railway reached McCarthy in 1911.
In 1938, the copper deposits were mostly gone and the town was mostly abandoned. The railroad discontinued service that year. Over its 30-year operation, U.S. $200 million in ore was extracted from the mine, making it the richest concentration of copper ore in the world.
are an extraordinary relic from America's past. The impressive structures and artifacts that remain represent an ambitious time of exploration, discovery, and technological innovation.
Valdez is located on the north shore of Port Valdez, a deepwater fjord in Prince William Sound. It lies 120 air miles east of Anchorage, or 305 miles by theRichardson and Glenn Highways. It is the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The Ghost At Tonsina
There were several stories about Charlie. In one, He was wanted for murder. In another, He hanged himslf in room 18. I (Samme Gallaher, author of "Moonlight Madness") didn't believe either, though, because Charlie's Ghost was sa peaceful.
Tonsina was the first big roadhouse heading north from Valdez. We stayed there one time in the late fall, delayed by a bad storm in Thompson Pass. It was getting dark and rainning heavily, so we were glad to pull in. The real excitement came after dinner when we gathered to hear tales of trails, bear scares, and the Tonsina ghost.
"Charlie" is what they called the ghost, seen by many people over the years. He was reported to be pleasant ghost, and many believed his presence provided an atmosphere of peace and gentleness at the lodge.
There were several different stories about Charlie. One claimed that he was wanted for murder in Canada. When the authorities finally found Charlie, he resisted arrest and was shot. He died in Room 18.
Another version was that Charlie was in despair because a beloved sweetheart had rejected him. Having nothing to live for, he hanged himself in Room 18, and had been wandering up and down the hallways ever since, looking for his beloved. I didn't believe either of these violent accounts, though, because Charlie's ghost was so peaceful.
Later I heard a third version that seemed more credible. During the depression, many young boys were turned out of their homes to fend for themselves because their parents could not feed them. Charlie was one of those boys and ad a rough time. He worked when he could, but little work was to be found. One day, in Seattle, he was down by the docks where he noticed a ship getting ready to sail. He asked an officer if he could work on the crew. Fortunately for him, the regular cabin boy had just quit, so they hired Charlie.
When the ship got to Valdez, Charlie decided to stay in Alaska. Eventually he made his way to Tonsina and got a job at the roadhouse.
He loved it. Everyone was nice to him. He was at peace for the first time in his life. Many years later he died alone in Room 18. He was buried on a hill behind the roadhouse. I believed Charlie must be this man's ghost. He had been happy at Tonsina Roadhouse, and surely stayed around because he had no better place to go.
Moonlight Madness. Tall tales from the Copper river valley. By Samme Gallaher. 2009.
We have two books of Samme Gallaher in our store, and you can buy at time you visit us.