McCarthy Today

YOU LIVE HERE?  EVEN IN THE WINTER?  WHAT’S THAT LIKE?  -  Watch the “Tales from McCarthy” series:

KTUU, the Anchorage NBC affiliate (Channel 2), came to McCarthy to film a series of short documentaires called “Tales from McCarthy”. Each one is a gem of a story from a unique remote Alaskan perspective. These photo links will take you to 5 amazing stories of life in McCarthy!


PART 1 - A Home On Top Of The World

PART 2 - McCarthy's Folks

PART 3 - Family Builds A Bridge

PART 4 - Solitary Life

PART 5 - Life of Purpose










Of course, there was no Anchorage back then.Indeed, few towns in Alaska are 100 years old and McCarthy celebrated its Centennial in 2006.  McCarthy and Kennicott are two of the most well preserved ghost towns in America. Kennicott was the quintessential “Company Town” & McCarthy was a fully realized “Sin City”.  These towns were inseparably tied together back in the beginning, and they are still inseparable today.  Here are some typical McCarthy, Alaska structures today, some restored, others untouched.

McCarthy is where you will want to spend the nights, celebrating at the Golden Saloon, enjoying a gourmet dining experience at the McCarthy Lodge, or just sitting on the porch of the Ma Johnson’s Hotel watching the town go by…  Many famous characters ended up in McCarthy, including Kate Kennedy, the town’s most famous madam. There was every luxury you could imagine available in this remote outpost, including a dress maker’s shop, several hardware stores, many “Fountains & pool halls” (perfect place to get a drink during prohibition).  What these people accomplished can never be done again. They carved out of this wild landscape a community, one we still benefit from today. After all it’s our colorful history; past and present, that entertains the many visitors. Romantic as it may be to compare ourselves to the founding members of our community, to believe we share the same goals and beliefs, we would be wrong.

One resident who grew up here in the 1970′s had this to say about life today: We are not as rugged and perhaps not as free. We are not as self reliant. Today we want to believe we are living a “bush” lifestyle, that we are the pioneers. Comparatively our lives are filled with a lot less adversity. Our lives would seem more foreign than the belief systems of the many immigrants who came seeking a new life. Our first residents’ life experience was vastly different than ours. People did not travel with the ease we do today. In the world of 1900, most people did not venture far from their hometowns. Commercial radio broadcasts and rural electricalfication were yet to become widespread. Newspapers and telegraph were the only sources for reliable news.  McCarthy was however, as modern or even more modern than most of America.  Electricity was in McCarthy before most of Chicago had electricity.

Today, McCarthy is still a “mercantile town”. McCarthy Ventures LLC has been restoring much of McCarthy’s downtown since 2001. We are dedicated to the preservation of this area. Our staff, most of whom live here year around, are keenly interested in sharing their town with you. We love the history and we enjoy sharing the stories and lifestyle we live with our guests.  The idea of Federal Parks did not come into being until 1917. Seventy eight million acres of land passed from Federal control to the States from 1803-1912.

Many States proceeded to sell off their lands to private citizens believing private ownership was the best way to manage lands. Since the United States was still in large part an agrarian economy, this is not too surprising. Today the Federal Government holds 650 million acres across the breadth of our country and 67% (244,626.9 acres of a possible 365,039.4 – 1995 figures) of Alaska is under Federal control. McCarthy’s’ settlers made assumptions that the community they were carving from this wilderness might go on to affluence, into the future. They had come a long way to settle here and for many years thought prosperity and stability were possible. Land ownership was foremost in their minds to achieve this.

McCarthy is the last remaining remote intact community of individuals inside a National Park. Contrary to popular belief, McCarthy was never a ghost town – since it’s start, there was always at least a few people living in McCarthy! The private land inside the center of Wrangell-St. Elias represents a continuous community rich in Alaskan history. Restoration of McCarthy by local residents and property owners has resulted in a powerful connection between past and present. The responsibility of preservation is a shared agenda of all who are touched by this uniquely Alaskan drama, still playing out, and located in the very center of America’s largest national park.