McCarthy - a town in the middle of Wrangel-St. Elias National Park

The Last National Park Residential Community: Wrangel-St. Elias

Imagine living on the edge of the world in the middle of the biggest national park in the United States. Meet the residents of Wrangel-St. Elias.

I’m sure plenty of folks are living in National Parks around the United States, either temporarily by moving around the park or illegally. But from a legal standpoint, no one can claim residency on national park land… unless you live in the last community within Alaska’s Wrangel-St. Elias. Eight hours outside Anchorage, the northern national park has nine of the tallest peaks in the US, disappearing glacial landscapes, and an active volcano.

Wrangel-St. Elias sits on the world’s edge, and as CBS Saturday Morning states in their report, the park is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Switzerland combined. Within that vast landscape, there are about 100 residents that prefer to live away from all other growing communities. These residents live in an old mining town built a hundred years ago. McCarthy sits right in the center of the park and is only accessible by plane, a private bridge, or by foot; there are no other ways in or out of the now-private town.

Today McCarthy is just a small, quiet place for residents who love the great outdoors, but once upon a time, back in the early 1900s, it was a lively town filled with “gambling and prostitution” when the Kennecott Mine was still open. The mine was also one of the settings in John Denver’s 1978 movie, aptly titled Alaska. But after sitting abandoned for several decades, the forgotten mine is now a haunting memory of the past. Learn more about the town and Wrangel-St. Elias National Park in the video below: