Million Dollar Bridge
The Million Dollar Bridge, built for $1.4 million and
completed in 1910, was the largest construction
challenge of the Copper River and Northwestern
Railway. The northern span fell in 1964 during
the Good Friday Earthquake.
Photo by Ned Rozell.

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell wrote this column in 2002.

Home of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, Alaska has been the setting for a few epic engineering battles rendered against nature. The Million Dollar Bridge, standing almost intact on the lower Copper River, is a reminder of another improbable Alaska construction project.

Completed in 1910, the Million Dollar Bridge was the crux of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, built to carry copper ore 196 miles from Kennicott to Cordova. Along that route were some of the greatest obstacles Alaska offers — steep canyons, rivers, hurricane-force winds, mosquitoes, and dozens of glaciers.

A fortune in high-grade copper locked deep in the Wrangell Mountains inspired Outside investors, including the Guggenheim family and J.P. Morgan, to risk building a railway from an ice-free port on Alaska’s Southcentral coast to the rich copper deposits at Kennicott.

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