Wrangell St. Elias: The Road

The Road out to McCarthy is a man made wonder. When you start on the road you are warned of its epicness and many guides recommend that you have multiple spare tires for the journey. It is about sixty miles long and routinely takes three to four hours. The road was built over a former railroad line. There are railroad spikes that will destroy tires and a washboarding that makes the entire drive feel like a rollercoaster ride.

We started right before sunset and had to stop nearly immediately…to take pictures.

One of the more impressive parts of the road is the Kuskulana Bridge, a bridge that is 238 feet above the Kuskulana River and was completed in 1910 in temperatures that dropped to sixty degrees below zero.    

The race was on to complete the railway, because of the thousands of pounds of copper that were sitting around waiting to be shipped t o market. Everything was built with extreme haste. About half way down the sixty-mile road you run into the Gilahina Trestle that is 890 feet long and 90 feet high. It was completed in eight days and used one-half million board feet of timber!

One of the most difficult and least talked about parts of the road is the extreme beauty that you discover while on the road. You look out the window and are confronted with serenity and completely forget about the fact that you are being tossed around like a rag doll as you hit pothole after pothole.

You check the rear view to make sure there aren’t cars behind you only to find yourself drawn into the mirror and consumed by the majesty of it all.