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Located in the Copper River valley beneath the towering heights of the Wrangell Mountains, Chitina lies at the point where the railroad to Kennecott diverged from what was to have been the main line north to Fairbanks or Eagle. It was thus a transportation hub. Although the townsite was laid out in 1906, the town did not boom until the Copper River and Northwestern Railway reached Chitina in 1910. Shortly after, the wagon road northwest to Tonsina was completed, connecting Chitina to the Valdez-Eagle and Valdez-Fairbanks trails, both important thoroughfares in turn-of-the-century Alaska. Because it became an access point to the Alaskan interior, Chitina managed to move beyond its limitations as a CR&NWRy company town.

Chitina once had five hotels and a bustling commercial area. The CR&NWRy never constructed the railroad line north to Fairbanks, however, and once the Alaska Railroad line was completed in 1923, transportation business shifted to the west. Chitina's fortunes rose and fell with the Kennecott Copper Company, which closed in 1938. In the 1940s, Chitina's population dropped to forty, and it proclaimed itself a ghost town. Today, only a few false-fronted buildings remain, but a mixture of frame and log houses survive, arranged in a vague grid plan.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland

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