Portage – The Sunken Alaska Ghost Town That Nature Is Reclaiming

Portage - The Sunken Alaska Ghost Town

 By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley 

Portage, Alaska, located near the head of Turnagain Arm on the Seward Highway, roughly 47 miles south of Anchorage, is a former settlement that was devastated by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. The town sunk approximately 6-10 feet putting it below the high tide level which caused devastating floods. Residents quickly abandoned the area as it was impossible to rebuild. Little remains of the town today, but visitors to the area will find structural remains of home sites as well as the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, an attraction that has brought welcome life back into the region. Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, pbarbosa Below is an account from a person in the Portage Alaska area and their experience during the long minutes of the Good Friday Earthquake on March 27, 1964.
“An eyewitness who was in a service station on the west side of the highway said he and a companion ran out the east door of the building as the concrete floor began to crack. They got about three feet out of the building when a crack about three feet wide opened between them. He said that cracks formed about each of them, leaving each man on a small island about three feet wide that moved up and down. He said it was like riding an open elevator. As he went down, the other man went up. And then they'd pass each other going in opposite directions. He said that the earth all around them broke into similar pieces and that as the blocks of frozen earth moved up and down, the cracks also opened and closed causing muddy water to spout as high as 50 feet. He said after the shaking stopped, water filled the open cracks. He estimated the duration of the quake at about four to five minutes.” Source: Chronology of Physical Events of the Alaskan Earthquake, 1966, Genie Chance papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

This image of Portage shows the destructive effects of the Good Friday Earthquake. Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Wikipedia

Nearly the entire community sunk 6-10 feet, forcing residents to abandon their homes.

Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, TravelingOtter
When you drive down the scenic Seward Highway, you’ll pass right through Portage Alaska. Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Wikipedia
Today, relics from the past still exist throughout the original Portage townsite. Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, Robot Brainz
This area, nicknamed the ‘ghost forest,’ got its name from the trees that stand dead because of the saltwater that flooded the area and killed their roots. Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, sandwich Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, Jean-Francois Chenier
Today, visitors can explore the area and learn of its history while they enjoy the beauty of Turnagain Arm.  Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, ralmonline alm
Hike, bike or ski to one of the many glaciers in the area, or hop on an Alaska Railroad adventure. Portage Glacier Portage Glacier sled rides powered by mom are fun - Photo by Annie Shannon
...Or visit the incredible animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Portage Sunken Alaska Ghost Town Flickr, faungg’s photos
Looking for more where that came from? Check out The Alaska Life’s treasured tiny towns road trip that will lead you through incredible scenery. Also, check out these Alaska ghost towns that you’ve probably never heard of. Let us know below if we left off any of your favorite Portage Alaska attractions. If you are living and loving The Alaska Life - share your adventures with us on our Facebook page HERE, and they might just end up getting featured in one of our next blog posts.
Written by Courtney Dowd-Stanley 


Most likely the Little Dipper Inn, owned by Joe and Alice Danich in old Girdwood. They did have a talkative mynah bird.

Jeanne Follett April 17, 2021

My grandson,Colton is a 10 year old autistic boy. He was reading the comments and saw this. He wants you to know he is sorry for your loss.

Beverly April 17, 2021

The past tense of "sink"’is “sank.” Therefore, “The town sank,” not " The town sunk."

Angela Stockton April 17, 2021

Guess we forgot the word ‘had’ for ‘had sunk’. Thanks :)

Kyle April 17, 2021

Is the Alaska Wildlife Center on the site where the old Portage Garage was located? I have a print of a painting of the old, dilapidated garage after the earthquake that was visible from the highway when passing through Portage 35 years ago. I drove through Portage last summer for the first time in 35 years and there was no garage anymore. So either the wildlife center demolished what was left of the garage structure or the garage was located somewhere else in Portage near the highway and demolished for some other purpose.

Bill April 17, 2021

I believe the dilapidated garage is still there, but maybe I’m wrong. The Wildlife Center is close, however.

Kyle April 17, 2021

Some of the old thoughts on the name Soldotna were when the early American soldiers were stationed there , the early Russian settlers Mothers would yell out to their daughter as they would head out of the door heading to town SOLDOT-NA———SOLDOT-NA meaning to their young women—- SOLDIER NO——SOLDIER NO!

Daniel Rimer April 17, 2021

The Myinah bird lived in the Little Dipper Inn in (old) Girdwood

Jim Isbell April 17, 2021

Just for those who may be curious:

“Soldatna” in cyrillic Russian (letter for letter): Солдатна
“Soldotna” (letter for letter): Солдотна

Солдат means “soldier” in Russian.
Солдат на (Soldat na) means “Soldier in” or “on” sort-of. “На” has different meanings depending on its use. But it requires something else. “Soldat na” is an incomplete thought.
Far as I know, there is no such proper Russian word as Soldatna or Soldotna.

Note: I am not an expert in Russian language. Just have studied it a little bit.

Tom April 17, 2021

I think you should acknowledge that some of your photos were taken on private property belonging to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It is responsible for the signage. It also has an earthquake exhibit. www.alaskawildlife.org

Napartaq April 17, 2021

The mynah bird was at Joe and AliceDanich’s Little Dipper Inn in old Girdwood. It was a real bird. The building burned in the 64 quake.

Jeanne Follett April 17, 2021

I believe the Mynah bird was in Girdwood at a small diner. Great burgers there.

Alice April 17, 2021

I have pictures of Portage before the earthquake, I was given them when my mom passed away.

Kim Williams April 17, 2021

Wow, we’d love to see those!

Kyle April 17, 2021

You might be talking about the Bird House bar that burnt down in 1996.

Teresa Thiele April 17, 2021

Wow Karen. Cool info about your parents! Thanks for sharing. We’re from the desert southwest and live to visit Alaska. Soldotna is home for the month of July. We love, love Alaska!

Karen April 17, 2021

I think you are talking about "Birdhouse " in Bird Creek. It burnt down in 1996.

Teresa Thiele April 17, 2021

Interesting, those bare Portage Earthquake trees look just like the ghostly trees standing in Quake Lake, since 1959.
Was Portage the town with the Mynah Bird Cafe or Bar ?

An FYI, my parents homesteaded and named Soldatna (now spelled Soldotna). They agreed to open the first Post Office due to growing population of homesteaders arriving on The Kenai Peninsula. When asked to name the location, they chose “Soldatna” taken from Soldatna Creek flowing nearby. In Russian, Sodatna loosely resembles “connaat” in the Cyrillic alphabet. Russians had settled in late 1700’s for trapping and trading opportunities and, a Russian Orthodox Church built in 1906 still stands in Kenai.

Karen "Lee" Heald April 17, 2021

Hi Karen, I am researching Mynah Bird Cafe, and trying to find see whether it was there or not.

That’s very interesting about your parents! Would you be interested in writing more about that, or being interviewed? We’d love to share your parent’s story here on The Alaska Life.

Cecil April 17, 2021

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