Alaska Ghost Towns
...You've Probably Never Heard Of
By Cecil Sanders
Settlements in frontier lands have a history of coming and going. The prospect of riches can lure people from all across the world to far off places. Untouched land can grow into a bustling town in a matter of days, and just as quickly as the people arrive, they can disappear. Sometimes they leave for better prospects elsewhere, sometimes natural disasters cause irreparable tragedy, and occasionally the reasons are much more sinister. Disappearing artifacts and faded images are all that remain of these Alaska ghost towns.
[caption id="attachment_7787" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Piles of freight and supplies on the waterfront, Dyea, Alaska, 1898. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption]
DyeaLocated on the south side of Chilkoot Pass, Dyea was one of the Alaska ghost towns that was once a booming place filled with gold miners and entrepreneurs chasing opportunity. During the Klondike Gold Rush, prospectors used the Chilkoot Trail, originally a trade route carved out by the Tlingets, to cross over the mountains to Dawson City, Yukon. [caption id="attachment_7785" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Dyea in the year 1898. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_7789" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Two Klondikers with dogs packing supplies along the Chilkoot Trail near Dyea, Alaska, 1897. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] At its height, Dyea was home to 8,000 people, while many thousands more passed through the town on their way to the gold fields. Tragedy struck Dyea on April 3, 1898 when multiple avalanches crashed down the Chilkoot Pass Trail and killed dozens of people. Promoters of Skagway used the tragedy to sway prospective railway builders into choosing a route along the White Pass Trail. Dyea quickly died with the construction of the White Pass Railroad out of neighboring Skagway. [caption id="attachment_7786" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Currently all that remains of Dyea. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] All that remains of the ghost town of Dyea is three cemeteries, several foundations, and the remains of a wharf. Many of the victims of the April 3rd avalanche are buried there in the cemeteries.
Three Saints BayFounded in August of 1784 by Russian fur trader, Grigory Shelikhov, Three Saints Bay was the first permanent Russian settlement built in Alaska. It was located upon a 9-mile long jut of land on the south side of Kodiak Island. Later excavation of the site determined that it was built upon a much older native site dating back to 100 B.C. [caption id="attachment_7791" align="aligncenter" width="700"] A drawing of Three Saints Bay. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] Only a few clues to the site remain, mostly in the form of depressions in the ground as well as plant life from agricultural experiments. The site was originally purposed as a trade center for the fleets of Russian ships involved in fur trade. In 1790 the population grew to about 70 people. The demise of Three Saints Bay was caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami wave that destroyed the settlement. Alexander Baranov moved the town to the modern day city of Kodiak, leaving the location as one of the Alaska ghost towns we know today. [caption id="attachment_7790" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Three Saints Bay. Credit: NOAA[/caption] Before founding Three Saints Bay, Grigory Shelikhov led 130 armed Russian men in an attack on a settlement of Koniag Alutiiq people on nearby Sitkalidak Island near Partition Cove. Known as the Awa'uq Massacre, Shelikhov led the killing of 500 (some reports claim up to 3000) men, women and children. Arsenti Aminak, a survivor of the massacre, was interviewed later and he recounted, "When our people revisited the place in the summer the stench of the corpses lying on the shore polluted the air so badly that none could stay there, and since then the island has been uninhabited."
PortlockPortlock, or Port Chatham, (south of Port Graham in Southcentral Alaska) was originally founded by the British Royal Navy in 1787. A post office opened in the town in the 1920s. Portlock later became the location of a territorial school and cannery. [caption id="attachment_7792" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Aerial view of Port Chatham area. Credit: Lands of America[/caption] In the early 1940s a series of unexplained and gruesome events took place. Men of the town who had gone into the surrounding hills to hunt, would vanish. Those that were eventually found were mutilated in ways abnormal to bear attacks. Tales of roaming evil spirits and large man-like creatures surfaced. Unexplained accidents, deaths and disappearances drove the people of Portlock to move en masse in the 1950s. Many accounts of these mysterious events were recorded. [caption id="attachment_7794" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Cannery at Chatham, George T Meyers & Co, Packers Alaska Salmon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.[/caption] Today all that is left of Portlock is footers from buildings and rusty cans and debris from the old cannery.
What’s going on in port Chatham? Is Bigfoot really killing people in that area?
Was there ever an old town set in the hills surrounded by what looks like Fir trees, with a school, a huge hotel/mansion, and some stragglers still living in the area?
How about the old gold mining town of Candle, on the Seward Peninsula..had it’s own saloons and all the emnities of the old mining days..
Ghost town of Treadwell, and Amalga in Juneau.
Curry was a bustling railroad stopover north of Talkeetna. Lavish Silence is a great book about Curry.
How about Katalla, and Redwood City on the coast.
Check out the history of Unga. I’ve been there twice. It’s fascinating to see a town dissolving into the moss!
Kashega, Makushin and Biorka Villages are abandoned since WWII. All on Unalaska Island. My Grandmother was born and raised in Kashega, both of my Grandparents and an Aunt were part the Unangax (Aleut) Internment after the Japanese bombing of the Naval base of Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Alaska. They spent the remainder of war in Burnett Inlet.
I’d like to hear more on Allamar. How was it accessed? What happened for it to possibly be called a ghost town?
Ellamar has about ten or so year rounders and connects to Tatitlek native village by four wheeler trai. How about Katalla? Was once a booming town south of Cordova in Gulf of Alaska
how bout Mary’s Igloo ?
back in 71, the seiner I worked on docked up in Metlakatla, an abandoned cannery. All that was left of that settlement was a house or two with inhabitants. Why we stopped there was to bath in the hot spring, that was covered and blocked in with cement, there was a large pool to swim in. Through my travels in Southeast, there were several abandoned villages.
And There’s Allamar due south of Valdez. Although I suppose the area is still inhabited.
Chena just downstream of Fairbanks. Golden city north of Fairbanks in the Cleary area. Richardson 30 miles North of Delta Junction. Only 2 graves still marked there as the Tanana River washed aaway the rest and many of the old cabins. Olnes up the Elliot before the Chatanika.
And the tragic story of Kokrines..
Great idea for a show about Alaska Alaska’s Mysteries and Ghosts.
Don’t forget McDouglas over on the Yetna River.
Ya, we went and found the old settlement of Sunrise in the early 70’s with the Top of the World 4 Wheelers. Not much left, but found the foundations.
Yes, that’s definitely a good one. We may need to do a full article on all Alaska ghost towns!
That’s a good one! A lot of boom and bust in Alaska.
Don’t forget the town of sunrise near hope/anchorage.
How about Livengood? It was a prosperous gold mining town for many years…. now just a lot of decaying old cabins and a AKDOT station.