Wrangell St Elias National Park has a long history of mining. These mines were scattered throughout the park and ranged in size from one man prospects to the huge complex at Kennecott. Many of these old sites were abandoned when it became apparent that they would not be profitable. As a result there is a large amount of abandoned mining equipment and supplies spread throughout the park. Most of this equipment has become part of the rich mining history of Alaska and is being preserved in place.
Unfortunately some of the items left behind by the miners are hazardous to the environment
The Alaska Region has been working with the staff at Wrangell St Elias to remove some of this hazardous waste. Most of what we are removing is old fuel barrels. I recently had the opportunity to help with this cleanup project. I visited two different sites collecting debris and piling it up to be slung out by helicopter. I also helped out with a helicopter sling operation that brought 13 barrels of fuel out of the backcountry. The full barrels weighed over 1000 pounds apiece.
This assignment was a little different than my normal backcountry patrols, but it was great to help clean up the park.