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Sunrise City Alaska Ghost Town

Thanks to a local in Hope a hand drawn map got me to this location. He also provided some insight into the restoration of the cemetery. A project taken on by the locals to save something of this once booming town. All is gone now except the remains of a couple buildings, but the cemetery stands proud due to their continuing efforts.  

A.J. Mills and George Donaldson were two of the first prospectors on Sixmile. They set up camp near the mouth of the creek in June 1895. Thus the community was established at the mouth of Sixmile Creek took.

The camp grew to a dozen log cabins that summer. In less than two years Sunrise grow into the largest town in the Cook Inlet region. As occurred in many towns the name came from the location, in this case due to the way the sun rose over the three peaks nearby. The miners noticed the sun rose above one peak and then disappeared. This continued until the sun had risen above all three peaks, one after another. This led the miners to name the settlement as Sunrise. They could brag that they had three sunrises and two sunsets every morning.

Photos courtesy of Mike and Joan Sinnwell June  2010

The gold rush was on and in 1896 1,500 stampederers came to  Sixmile Creek and it tributaries. Sunrise, overrun with stampeders, became a tent city and the area’s supply hub. One visitor said it looked “like an army encampment.” By 1898, the town of 800 boasted three general stores, three saloons, a billiard hall, a restaurant, a post office, a hotel and a community hall.

Early miners mined by hand, shoveling rich shallow gravel into long sluice boxes, but they were often handicapped by large boulders remnant of an earlier ice-age. By 1898, most of the shallow pay had been mined and the Kenai boom had largely played out.

It was only a decade later when the population had dwindled and the gold rush town of Sunrise entered its sunset years. The Gold strikes elsewhere lured away miners and by 1906 the population of Sunrise had declined to 75. Merchants followed the miners, fires destroyed several businesses and other buildings were torn down and used for firewood. The post office closed in 1918. Michael Connolly, the recorder for the town and the mining district in the early years, was the last resident of Sunrise. When he drowned in 1939, the town died with him.

A viewer writes Saturday February 19th 2011 -- Hello- I really enjoyed the time you took to put this site up.  There is sooooo little about Sunrise.  Do you know of any old photos of the town Sunrise before the earthquake?  I work on the train and would like to have a better idea of what is looked like.  Are the other photo's of present day Sunrise? I'm hoping to go there maybe in April, before the season opens.  But I was going to go last year too...... I love that area, but I tend to stay close to home in the Matanuska Valley.  ANY info would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks, Kate Rawliuk   Smile! It improves your looks!!!

Rocky responds -- Yes, as a matter of fact there are lots of old photos just down the road at the museum in Hope. Also much of the Sunrise history is also there. The employees were helpful and it was because of them I was able to find the turnoff to get to Sunrise. They gave me great directions. When I was there (Sunrise) last year, 2010, All I could find standing was the cemetery. I was told, and it looked to be true, that efforts to restore the cemetery had been ongoing. If you can take a short hike across a meadow you should find several buildings, well at least the roofs were still there. I could not get across it because of water and mud. Look at the second from last photo on the this page as I used a telephoto lens and at least captured the roof of one building.

A viewer writes - Tuesday August 2nd, 2011 - Hi there, Stumbled across your website and was AMAZED to see pics of the Sunrise graveyard! We've been under the impression for years that there was no way to access the Sunrise site. Would it be possible for you to share the directions you received? We've wished wistfully for a long time to have a chance to see it ourselves.

Rocky responses - Just ask at the Hope Museum..

A viewer writes - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 -- I own the property with the ramp in the Sunrise City pictures on your site.  It was the old wharf site for the town which was located at the other end of a tramway (like a railroad track) that curved along the toe of the slope just below the Point Comfort Cemetery (the graveyard in your pictures).  The wharf buildings, etc were washed away in the earthquake (the Hope/Sunrise Museum has a photo of them heading downstream). I believe my property is the most beautiful place in Alaska and I am sure many visitors would agree.  I also have the second highest tides in the world (about 42 foot differential from low to high in a single day).  It is also interesting to note that each time the sun comes from behind a mountain it gets warmer as the direct sun hits you. Thank you for sharing the pictures.


p.s. That grassy tidal field is filled with wildflowers every summer.

A viewer writes - Thursday, March 27, 2014 -- I was wondering if anybody has information on a Polly Renner or an Edward Emmanuel Swanson. Polly was my great-great grandmother and Edward was my grandfather? Also, if anybody has information regarding the time when Sunrise Alaska was burnt down because of a distillery (illegal) gone haywire? Please contact me at  Thanks, Edward Swanson


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