Portage Ghost Town – Whittier, Alaska - Atlas Obscura

Portage Ghost Town

The ruins of a town wiped out by the second-largest earthquake in recorded history. 


On Good Friday in 1964, everything was normal in Portage, Alaska, until 5:36 p.m. That’s when the second largest earthquake in recorded history hit.

The 9.2 magnitude earthquake, which had side effects registered in Florida and Texas, lasted four minutes and 38 seconds, but did a devastating amount of damage. The quake raised some areas by as much as 30 feet in elevation and caused many buildings to collapse. The earthquake and the tsunamis it caused killed 139 people in total.

Some of the locations hit were the hamlets of Portage and Girdwood, both southeast of Anchorage. A Portage native described the earthquake as “like riding an open door elevator.” After the aftershocks subsided, all that was left of Portage were ruins and a barren forest. It was decided then that Portage would be abandoned and Girdwood relocated.

Today, the remaining bits of Portage serve as a ghost town; a skeletal reminder of the mining community that once thrived there and the force of nature that destroyed it.

Know Before You Go

The ruins are near the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which protects local animals.

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