Photo provided by Patty Smith

The bars, brothels and hospital, school, and gymnasium are long gone in what was formerly the bustling town of McCarthy, Alaska, at the foot of the Wrangell mountains adjacent to the Kennecott mine, but its history is intact. And now, just across a footbridge, a series of “wayside” panels commemorate the many miners who lost their lives in the dangerous pursuit of underground copper mining for Kennicott Copper Mining Company, now the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark.

RAF Alaska Liaison Al Clayton, a longtime member of Pioneers of Alaska, had participated in the panel installations, and gathered with members of the Pioneers, the Flying Rotarians, local community members, and representatives of the National Park Service for the June 19 dedication ceremony, co-hosted by the Pioneers of Alaska and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

That same weekend, Clayton hosted the Fifth Annual Aviators/Pioneers of Alaska Expedition, a June 19-20 fly-in at his Fireweed airstrip (OAK8), eight miles southwest of Kennicott, which served as the camping place for the group. An estimated 100 people attended with 25 aircraft and other vehicles.  “The day really never ends on Summer Solstice weekend in McCarthy, so I could not accurately keep track of the number of people coming and going,” said Clayton.  “

RAF, Pioneers, International Fellowship of Flying Rotarians and EAA Chapter 42 volunteers flew out Sunday for a work party ten miles southeast at May Creek airstrip (MYK). 

Ten planes with eighteen volunteers descended into historic May Creek, with weed whackers, limb loppers and other tools to clear brush from the approach at the southern end of the airstrip, around the “mail shack” and around the overgrown tie down area. The airstrip features a National Park Service public use cabin available at no cost on a first-come first-served basis and provides access to a host of recreational opportunities, including biking and hiking a network of roads, and access to the Nizina River for rafting.

RAF Alaska Liaison Al Clayton, (at right) with NPS Superintendent Ben Bobowski and Interpretive Supervisor Jamie Hart at the Kennicott cemetery wayside dedication ceremony Photo Credit: National Park Service


  1. Christine Mortine on July 1, 2021 at 6:51 am

    What a wonderful accomplishment in a spectacular area. I have been to the mine, camped by the creek, biked on the road, traversed the foot bridge. Now time to fly up. Bravo!

  2. James Canitz on July 1, 2021 at 11:27 am

    I would like to be included in receiving notification of future Alaska RAF events. Please put me on the email list.

  3. Ken Duncan on July 1, 2021 at 11:46 am

    Thanks to All who made and make this spectacular place better, safer and accessible !! We flew up there from Arkansas in 2017, stayed at the NPS lodge and had outstanding fly outs for three days visiting the area and stopping in at May Creek. Truly A Wonderful Adventure !!

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