Anchorage Historic Parks & Sites
Why did Alaska’s pioneers leave their families, homes, and jobs and journey to the “last frontier?” Was it the possibility of gold and untold riches, a chance to create something great, or simply the desire for a new beginning? Visitors to the Anchorage area have several opportunities to explore these questions in a variety of hands-on learning experiences as varied and diverse as any you’ll find in Alaska.
One place to start is the Kenai Mountains National Heritage Area, south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway National Scenic Byway. At the Potter Section House Railroad Museum and rest area, you’ll find a restored house originally built by the Alaska Engineering Commission for the section foreman and his family. Enjoy the views and maybe see a moose while you’re there!
You can also explore Alaska’s Gold Rush, which brought men, women, children, fortune seekers, vagabonds, and runaways here from all over the world. For an introduction to Turnagain Arm gold country, visit the Bird Creek Wayside and enjoy the mountain views and surfers in the Bore Tide. Our mining heritage also includes the Indian Valley Mine at Milepost 41. Or drive a little farther for a chance at your own strike while panning for gold at the Crow Creek Mine in historic Girdwood.
One of the most significant events in state history was North America’s biggest and most damaging earthquake—a 9.2 on the Richter scale—on March 27, 1964. See some of the damage and imagine the devastation in the hearts of those who lived through it. As you view the Ghost Forest near the Girdwood turnoff, or Old Portage across from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, imagine the upheaval and loss as nature reclaims and renews these hallowed grounds.
Anchorage’s Four Original Neighborhoods were also heavily affected by the ’64 earthquake—so much so that this area probably felt like the epicenter. Today you’ll find visible scars on Government Hill at Sunset Park, and in South Addition along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. The Historic Downtown Anchorage Walking Tour includes this historic event, as well as the colorful history of this first settlement. You’ll learn about both through stories and photos that tie Anchorage’s unique history to present day. And no Anchorage history tour is complete without a visit to the Oscar Anderson House Museum in Elderberry Park.
These historic elements tell us that we’ve done a lot of living since the “Boomers” arrived in Tent City!
Historic Park or Site
North of Anchorage
Site Summit, located in Arctic Valley at nearly 4,000 feet atop Mt. Gordon Lyon, was once home to a Nike Hercules missile battery, part of the ‘Rings of Steel’ missile defense system that surrounded major U.S. cities from possible Soviet missile attacks during the Cold War.
What elements make a great city? When Anchorage’s forefathers landed at Ship Creek in 1915, those elements were people, education, jobs, culture, capital investments, productivity and growth, food production and subsistence, wildlife and natural beauty. So these pioneers set out to make them all a reality. Four distinct neighborhoods arose to meet the call for housing and land management offices, as well as school, library, and museum facilities. ...more
So don’t just stroll through town — take the official tour, brought to you by longtime resident experts: Alaska.org and the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.
South of Anchorage
This mine played a significant role in the early settling of the Turnagain Arm. The building here are on the National Register of historic places and the mine is unique because of its association with load mining. Indian Valley Mine was founded in 1910 by a vagabond who ran away from home at the age of 12, joined the circus and then finally traveled to Alaska during the gold rush. The Cowles family will tell you all about the history of this… ...more
Quick: what’s the longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America? It’s the Anderson Memorial Tunnel, and you’ll drive through it on the scenic and historic drive to Whittier. The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area is a place whose valleys and mountains, communities and people tell the larger story of a wild place and a rugged frontier. This audio guide gives you the inside scoop on its fascinating history. You’ll… ...more
This rest area is the site of a railroad section house. The restored house and its outbuildings were built by the Alaska Railroad to house the section foreman and his family. The foreman was responsible for maintaining a 10-mile stretch of railroad track. You’ll find an old train car and rotary plow that used by the section foreman to clear snow off the tracks in winter. This is a fun stop for kids to take a look at railroad history and… ...more
Crow Creek Mine has been in operation since 1896, and gold is still found in its claims today! Your guides will be members of the mining family that keeps Crow Creek operational. This is their home, so tour groups are kept small, creating a more intimate environment and allowing more time for questions. Try your luck at panning, and keep what you find.