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Hunting for abandoned places in Alaska? You’re in the right place. Below are 13 of my favorite abandoned places across our most northern state!
Abandoned Places In Alaska
1. Ukivok Stilt Village
Ukivok Island (sometimes spelled Ugiuvak) is a small rocky island off the coast of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula in the Bering Strait. Captain James Cook was the first to survey the island in 1778. In honor of his officer, James King, he named the island King Island.
The island’s location and lack of natural resources make it an unpleasant environment. However, approximately 200 individuals lived there until 1940. The residents, known as Aseuluk (people of the sea) or Ukivokmiut (people of Ukivok), established a settlement in the island’s south. On a nearly 45-degree slope, the Ukivokmiut constructed several dwellings, a school, and a church.
Hunting and fishing for walruses and seals were the main subsistence activities, but some crops were also maintained throughout the summer. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs closed the school on the island in the middle of the twentieth century. Because the children were now required to live on the mainland, the adults followed them to Alaska, leaving the island desolate except for a few stilted buildings.
The island is 1.6 kilometers long and consists primarily of high rocky shores and cliffs, with no beach, making landing difficult. All of the dwellings are made of wood; however, it is difficult to know for sure where the wood came from, and when it was used.
The Ukivok Stilt Village is one of the most isolated abandoned places in Alaska, making it difficult to actually explore in person.
2. Buckner Building
The Buckner Structure in Whittier, Alaska, on the western shore of the Prince William Sound, is an abandoned former US military building. During the Cold War, the US Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with quickly constructing housing and recreational facilities for 1,000 soldiers relocating to Whittier.
The Buckner Building, also known as the Composite Bachelor Housing Service and Recreation Center, was erected in 1953. A mess hall, sleeping quarters, movie theatre, bowling alley, small jail, and tunnels connected the town of Whittier, Alaska, to this composite structure. The structure was formerly one of Alaska’s largest, and it was known as “the city under one roof.”
The facility remained operational until 1966, when the military withdrew, and the Port of Whittier was handed over to the General Services Administration. Because the structure’s windows and doors were gone, the elements took over, allowing water to permeate and keep the building in a continual state of freezing and thawing. In 2016, the building went into foreclosure.
Almost every room nowadays has inch-deep water soaking the floors, as well as asbestos, mold, and mildew. Everything has been broken and vandalized, both inside and out. The city took over ownership and built a fence to keep trespassers out. In 2016, a structural evaluation of the building revealed that no significant component of the structure could be repaired for occupancy.
The building continues to sit vacant and is one of the more popular abandoned places in Alaska among explorers.
3. The Magic Bus
The Stampede Trail is a route in Alaska, United States of America. Yutan Construction began improving the trail in 1961 so that vehicles could transport ore from local mines. After 80 kilometers of road had been completed, the project was halted in 1963. Despite the fact that it spans many rivers, no bridges were built. The Stampede Trail leads to the world-famous “Magic Bus,” where Christopher McCandless spent many months between April and August 1992.
The bus, which had been towed into the wilderness by a construction company in the early 1960s as a backcountry shelter during a short-lived road project along the area’s Stampede Trail, was soon abandoned and forgotten on the far side of a bogie, river-soaked parcel of public wildland that drew mostly moose and local hunters. This derelict bus was turned into a shrine. Tourists travel from all over the world to visit. However, getting there is not simple.
Visitors have wrecked the bus in recent years, which is unfortunate. Despite this, McCandless continues to “occupy” the space. The bus, however, has been withdrawn because it has enticed people into danger in the Alaska wilderness in its current location in Healy, Alaska.
4. Independence Mine
The ruins of Independence mine are in Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna mountains. The gold mining operation at this mine, which was active on and off between 1938 and 1951, was formerly Alaska’s second-largest.
Prospectors moved out into the Susitna and Matanuska River basins in search of valuable metals. They discovered gold in quartz veins in the granite of the Talkeetna Mountains. The Alaska Free Gold Mine on Skyscraper Mountain and Independence Mine on Granite Mountain was formerly two distinct mines that combined to form Independence Mine.
The power station, mill complex, and tram have all deteriorated over the years due to hard winters, but the mess hall and bunkhouse, as well as other ancient buildings, have been beautifully preserved.
The mine is now a State Historic Park. The ruins and restored buildings provide insight into the lives of the miners and their families who labored in the remote camp. An original diesel engine and a General Electric AC generator, both made in Schenectady, New York, are on display.
Since these buildings are located in a State Park, its one of the few legal abandoned places in Alaska you can explore.
5. Chatanika Gold Dredge
The Chatanika Gold Dredge was originally known as the Fairbanks Exploration Company gold dredge #3. It started out as a gold mining enterprise in 1923. This lake yielded a total of $70 million in gold between 1926 and 1957. The mining camp formerly had a population of 10,000 people, making it larger than Fairbanks, Alaska!
The dredge was decommissioned in 1962. It passed through various owners before being purchased in 1997 by Jane Haigh and Patricia Peirsol. Haigh is a professor at Kenai Peninsula College and a historian. Rather than turning it into a tourist attraction, as some other vintage gold dredges have done, the co-owners decided to leave the dredging machinery in its original state in order to preserve a piece of Alaska history.
Although fires in 2013 and 2016 severely damaged the steel framework and equipment, they have generally survived. It’s a favorite destination for local tourists because it’s only 25 miles outside of Fairbanks, just along Steese Highway. Urban explorers can even catch the aurora with the dredge in the foreground for some amazing shots.
6. Kennicott Ghost Town
Kennecott, also known as Kennicott and Kennecott Mines, is an abandoned mining community in the Copper River Census Area of Alaska, United States, that served as the hub for many copper mines. After copper was discovered in the area in 1900, a group of affluent businessmen formed the Kennecott Copper Corporation to mine the very rich veins in the rugged rocks above Root Glacier (called after a clerical worker misspelled Kennicott).
To transport copper ore from Kennicott to the nearest port, Cordova, the business built the Copper River & Northwest Railroad and developed the company town of Kennicott. The corporation made more than $200 million from 1911 until 1938, when the mine was fully operational.
McCarthy was established as a site where miners could enjoy “wine, ladies, and song” in its saloons, restaurants, hotels, pool halls, stores, and, yes, a red-light district sprung, because gambling and drinking were prohibited in the company town. A number of structures from that time period are still in use and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
McCarthy, 5 miles away, is a sister community of Kennicott, which is a historic mining village with Gold Rush antiquities. Both villages are now laid-back, offering history, scenery, and a taste of old Alaska. Of all the abandoned places in Alaska, Kennicott is my favorite ghost town by far.
7. Nike Missile Base Bay
During the Cold War, the Nike air defense system was a nationwide ground-based anti-aircraft defense system designed to protect the United States. Incoming aircraft, such as nuclear-armed Soviet bombers, were tracked and destroyed with guided nuclear missiles.
The Nike sites were part of a larger air defense system that included the Aircraft Control and Warning System (AC&W), which was the first ground-based radar detection system built in 1951-1954, and the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, which was more reliable and comprehensive and was installed in more northern parts of Alaska from 1955-1957.
The Nike missiles, with its surface-to-surface mission, were considered the most accurate artillery weapon in the Army’s arsenal, capable of delivering a 40 kiloton nuclear warhead to a target 100 miles away. The missile site was organized into two battalions and was part of the 87th Artillery Group, which was based at Fort Richardson and commanded by the US Army Alaska. The Army Air Defense Command Post was in charge of tactical control of the firing batteries. The site was closed in 1979.
Nike Site Summit was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 as “an extremely well-kept example of a Cold War-era Nike-Hercules missile system.” After 30 years of being abandoned, vandalism, and the weather, a partnership was created in 2009 to stabilize, maintain, and clean up the property.
If you’re in the area, and love Cold War history, don’t pass up on exploring this unique spot in Alaska.
8. Kiska Army Field
During WWII, the Japanese attacked and controlled Kiska Island off the coast of Alaska for more than a year. The Japanese had already departed by the time any resistance forces arrived, but this did not halt the bloodshed. Kiska Island is a small landmass in the trailing Alaskan horn, nestled among the Rat Islands. In June 1942, during the Battle of Dutch Harbor, the Japanese navy attacked the small island encampment, establishing one of the few instances of Japanese occupancy on American soil during WWII.
When allied forces (US and Canadian) attempted to retake Kiska in August 1943, the Japanese forces had just days before abandoning the island, learning from their earlier failure and using the same heavy fog as cover. The Japanese placed a lot of booby traps on the island before leaving, which inflated the body count over the already high friendly fire. In the end, the action claimed the lives of about 200 men.
Despite the lack of any formal monument, the occupied site has been designated as a national historic landmark. The abandoned island still has some wrecked Japanese ships and broken piers, as well as other miscellaneous trash like rusted artillery weapons and bullet casings.
Urban explorers can see the moored remains of the Nissan Maru, as well as many ruined military buildings, and even a grounded Japanese submarine on the island. Of all the abandoned places in Alaska, Kiska island is one of the most difficult to reach.
9. Crashed WB-29 Superfortress “Lady of the Lake”
The ghostly remains of a WB-29 Superfortress, a weather reconnaissance aircraft that retired in 1955 and partially submerged in an Alaskan lake at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), are called “the lady of the lake”.
The Lady of the Lake was originally a recon craft that flew over the North Pole and was once used for open water extrication training until it became too unsafe to do so. She was stripped of all parts and placed in the Eielson Air Force Base’s lake, where she was utilized for training for several years, with only the winter weather interrupting her.
The water in the lake rose too high to reach her one spring, so she sits there until someone decides to rescue her, or at least pretend to save her, over and over again. This is one of the most unique abandoned places in Alaska, as it’s not every day you get to photograph a partially submerged aircraft.
10. Igloo City Hotel
The oddest form of tourist attraction is Igloo City in Cantwell, Alaska. For starters, it’s in a distant part of one of the country’s most rural states. Second, and perhaps more strangely, it’s an attraction that was never even built. Igloo City in Cantwell, Alaska, was never finished and was intended to be used as a hotel.
It was built in the 1970s but failed to meet building codes at the time; while some of those codes may be simpler to follow today, too much of the hotel has deteriorated over time to make rehabilitation worthwhile. The building has had multiple owners since its construction, none of them have been able to bring it up to code.
Because of its size, planes can view the four-story concrete tower from 30,000 feet. However, the inside was never completed. Its main significance today is that it marks the halfway point on the Parks Highway between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska’s two largest cities. Igloo City is one of the more iconic abandoned places in Alaska, and is a popular attraction for explorers heading north.
11. Vaughan Ghost Town
The state Bureau of Recreation and Parks opened a museum in a reconstructed railroad depot transported to the Vaughan site from Pickens, Mississippi, in 1980, near the site of Casey Jones’s 1900 crash. Vaughan is a ghost town with only a store, a post office, and a few abandoned buildings. A huge commercial building across from the museum has been rehabilitated by the state. Vaughan was never a major city–it might have qualified as a “village” back when that was an official classification. The train crash that killed engineer Casey Jones was Vaughan’s main claim to fame.
The Vaughan Museum, like several other historical state parks such as Florewood, was closed in 2004, and since then, structures had faded. The town of West received a grant in 2008 to transfer the depot up the lines to its downtown, where it now serves as a visitor center.
Within a few steps of downtown, at least two older homes still survive in various levels of abandonment, and the one-story old post office appears to have a few years of life left in it. Many of the town’s ruins are there to be remembered rather than restored.
12. Adak Military Base
The Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital (AASDH) in Yazoo City was the state’s first hospital for African Americans, built during the era of Mississippi’s strict racial segregation. When most black citizens in Mississippi lacked access to health care, the AASDH provided free health care to anyone. Future nurses were also taught in the hospital, allowing them to obtain their state licenses and work in other parts of the state. The hospital, which opened in 1928 and closed in 1972, had full-service operating and surgery rooms, as well as a delivery room and nursery.
Several African American doctors and nurses were linked with AASDH, but the most renowned was Dr. Lloyd T. Miller, who served as its main surgeon for many years. The structure had been closed since 1972 and had been abandoned for a long time when it was added to the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 2007 list of 10 Most Endangered Places.
Roof leaks and vandalism continue to plague the structure. The Afro-American Sons and Daughters Foundation has planned a few fund-raising events in 2009, with the goal of housing the Yazoo City Head start program, and hosting community events in the building.
13. Lake Louise Cabins
During the Cold War, the United States bolstered its military presence along its northern borders and throughout Alaska. These cabins overlook the beautiful Lake Louise and were built during the 1950s. Its said that President Eisenhower even stayed at one of these cabins on a trip up north years ago.
Today these cabins are abandoned filled with overgrowth from the surrounding vegetation. Even after all these years the cabins are still in surprisingly good shape.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.