|Photo credits: (all) Cherime MacFarlane|
By Cherime MacFarlane
Copyright (C) 2015
If Denali is the cherry on top of Alaska, Keystone Canyon is one of the yummy little nuts scattered on top the ice cream. Near the town of Valdez, and formed by the Lowe River, its walls are nearly perpendicular.
The 3 mile (4.8k) gorge is rife with water. It spews from high and low places all along its length. At an elevation 307 feet (94m), it is nearly at sea level. But to get to it and the town of Valdez, you must negotiate Thompson Pass.
The pass, at 2,805 feet (855m) is not the highest pass in Alaska, but can see snowfalls of 62 inches (162cm)(*1). After reaching the top of the pass, be sure to stop at the Blueberry Lake turn out for pictures of the surrounding landscape.
EXTREMIST SPORTING ADVENTURE
At one point, extreme skiing and snowboarding competitions have been held here. For the very adventurous, heli-skiing is available in the winter.
From the top of Thompson Pass, in a little over 11.3 miles (18.2k) the road will drop 2,498 feet (761.39m) to the head of Keystone Canyon. Not named for it shape, but for the motto of the State of Pennsylvania, the sheer walls of the canyon do make it a bit cool unless you are in direct sunlight. Taking a jacket is an excellent idea.
The Richardson Highway crosses the Lowe River before it cuts down into the canyon. There are several turnouts for safe photo opportunities if you wish to get pictures of the spectacular falls. Horsetail is a broad water fall with a divided section which resembles a horse tail.
Bridal Veil Falls is on the opposite side of the canyon wall. Tall, and considerably narrower, it is every bit as lovely as Horsetail Falls. But is a bit more difficult to capture photographically due to being in shadow most of the day.
On that side of the gorge you will also find the remains of the rail road tunnel cut into the rock of the canyon. The tunnel was cut by hand during the heyday of the copper boom up the Copper River toward Chitina and McCarthy, where the Kennicott Mine was located (1907-1911).
An interesting bit of history, the tunnel was the scene of a gunfight as several entities fought to gain control over access to the interior. The Copper Spike, written by Lone E. Janson, gives some insight into a fascinating era in an interesting place.
Another book which give some history of the times and those who lived through them is Sisters, Coming of Age and Living Dangerously in the Wild Copper River, written by Samme and Aileen Gallaher. The two sisters lived in area in the 1920s with a miner who had stayed behind when the Klondike gold rush failed.
If you come to our awesome state, make sure you are prepared to take lots of photos. There is a beautiful view around every corner.
Bio: Although born in New Orleans, I am proud to call myself an Alaskan. I have lived here since the early 1970s. I have seen -40 degrees, hauled water, made bear bacon and live in a cabin. I have used a fishwheel to catch salmon coming up the Copper River. I was my second husband's chief mechanic's helper and roadie. I have cut firewood on shares and worked as a cocktail waitress during pipeline days in a small lodge on the Richardson Highway.
Alaska is my home. I never thought I would love it so much I never want to leave. The beauty of Alaska is a draw I cannot resist. I love the people and the history. I have been captured by a place I came to under duress.
Note from Me Gusta: Cherime MacFarlane is a prolific author of several romantic adventure series, many of which are written about her beloved adopted home of Alaska. You can find her books on Amazon.com here.