Chitina - Where the Hell Is Chitina?

North America
July 8th 2009
Published: July 11th 2009
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Where the Hell is Chitina?Where the Hell is Chitina?Where the Hell is Chitina?

These buttons are passed out to travelers entering town and visiting the Chitina Hotel. There is a lot of humor here. Think about it.
Upon arriving in Chitina, we visited the Chitina Hotel where they promptly gave us a pin that read "Where the Hell Is Chitina?". We stayed at Kenny Lake and drove the 30 miles to Chitina (pronounced Chit - na). Chitina used to be a booming town when it was originally established in 1908. It was the northern terminus of the Copper River & Northwestern Railway as a railroad and mining supply town for the Kennecott Copper Mines at McCarthy. The town is now practically a ghost town with just a few buildings remaining. The new owners of the Chitina Hotel bought the old building which was falling down, moved it to a new location down the street, put over $1 million in it, totally remodelling the entire building and opened it as a hotel and restaurant. There are a few other buildings in the area that are pretty run down. There is nice art gallery there as well.

The main interest in the area now that the mine has closed is the Copper River Salmon Industry.
Located all along the river are Fish Wheels. We had never seen a fish wheel before so it was interesting to us. The local residents (or Alaska Residents) are allowed to fish with fish wheels. They are constructed, placed on the river, and catch dozens of fish each day. This is the mainstay of food for people here during the winter months other than what they kill by hunting. They are also allowed to sell the fish to local canneries and restaurants. Copper River Salmon is said to be the very best Salmon you can catch. See the Fish Wheel pictures in this article for a better explanation of the use and construction of the fish wheels.

While there we drove the extra 12 miles on a bumpy, dusty, potholed, dirt road to Silver Lake. Now that is serious trout fishing! We had a wonderful day on the lake with the Pontoons and the silence was only broken by one of us yelling "FISH ON"! The first trout Patti caught was so large that it broke her 10 lb. test line and the trout left with the lure! How rude! We caught more than 20 fish that day, releasing most of them. We kept 4 large trout and had two of them for dinner that night. Delicious.
One weighed in at a
 A View of the Alaska Pipeline A View of the Alaska Pipeline A View of the Alaska Pipeline

The straight white looking line on the right of the picture is the overland portion of the Alaska Pipeline.
little over 8 lbs.

The most exciting thing to do in town, so we were told, was to travel 18 miles up a bumpy dusty dirt road, climb up onto the new $3 million dollar River Bridge.There you can throw rocks into the water and count the seconds until the rock hits the water. Now, that's what we call entertainment ! We skipped that little adventure! Don't bother either with the Uncle Tom's Tavern. If you can cut your way through the cigarette smoke and the stench, you could buy a beer, but why bother. We headed for home for a cold beer and some fresh trout !

Stops along the way at Liberty Falls and Miriam Falls were a good photo opportunity. All in all, a beautiful day of fishing.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


 Plow Poles Plow Poles
Plow Poles

The tall poles on the side of the highway are snow plow poles so that the snow plow drivers can tell where to plow the roads in the winter. The snow here can get to be 8 - 10 feet deep and they just plow between the poles to keep the road open.
Miriam FallsMiriam Falls
Miriam Falls

Miriam Falls in the Chugach Mountains
Kenny LakeKenny Lake
Kenny Lake

Kenny Lake does not offer fishing to the guests. It is a private lake. A decent restaurant though and they will cook your catch for you if you wish. The restaurant, showers and laundry are all in the same building !
The Chitina Airport Terminal The Chitina Airport Terminal
The Chitina Airport Terminal

No need for security here. The terminal is a small one room log building. If you need a restroom, walk up the hill to the "portable can". Only small aircraft use this dirt strip.
What a beautiful PlaceWhat a beautiful Place
What a beautiful Place

Silence! Peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. Only broken by the yell of Got One !
The Fish WheelThe Fish Wheel
The Fish Wheel

The large windmill like baskets go around and through the water catching fish and then dumping them into another basket in the water. The baskets will hold about two dozen fish and there is a basket in the water on both sides of the wheel. So about 4 dozen fish a day could be caught here.
The fish containerThe fish container
The fish container

The Salmon are dumped from the basket in the fish wheel to this basket in the water to keep them alive until they are retrieved. You can see the salmon if you look closely into the basket.
The Fish Wheel LineThe Fish Wheel Line
The Fish Wheel Line

Here is the line of the fish wheels on the Copper River. Many people make a living fishing this way. I would imagine a diet rich in fish gets old after about two months during the snowy winters.
The Chitina HotelThe Chitina Hotel
The Chitina Hotel

Lunch and dinner are served here in the old dining room of the Chitina Hotel. There are 12 rooms upstairs that have been restored to their original condition from 1908. This building is on the list of National Historic Places.

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