A Tunnel, Unseen for 80 Years

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By Bob Kaufman

Founder, Alaska.org

There’s a 15-year story behind the above photo.

I should start by telling you how I introduced this photo on Facebook years ago:

“Alaska Trivia: Hundreds of thousands of travelers went through this passage in a mere 25 years… yet only a handful have seen it since. Where is it, and why have so few people seen it in the last 75 years?”

Fallen boulders now blocking the exit from the tunnel

Lots of people commented. Some confidently insisted they had visited this tunnel just off the road system near Keystone Canyon, to which I replied:

“Sorry guys…but unlike the Keystone Canyon tunnel near Valdez which lies just off the road, you can’t drive anywhere near this tunnel. It lies silent, in a wilderness so remote, likely no more than a few dozen people see it a year. In fact, we can’t find another picture of it on the Internet.”

Then someone commented: “Put us all out of our misery and tell us please!”

So I relented and spilled the beans.

And here is what I posted: “This is an abandoned tunnel of the old Copper River & Northwest Railroad, located about 50 miles northwest of Cordova, deep in the wilderness of the Copper River Valley. You have to float the Copper River to get here--and even then, it's hard to get to. You can't see the tunnel from the river, and there are no markings. But from several miles away, studying the landscape, you can see where the old railbed either gets squeezed into the river by a large mountain, or has to bore through it. The river is very swift as it piles up against the mountain, making it hard to paddle ashore and tie off your boat. Once you do, it's a 20-minute hike through impossibly thick brush to the mouth of the tunnel. It took me four one-week floats over a 15-year period to finally find it! That's why we figure few people have seen it since September 11, 1938, the day the trains last ran.”

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