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Portage: Alaska's Ghost Town Destroyed In The 1964 Earthquake

In 1964 disaster struck settlements in Alaska, with Portage being left abandoned afterward. Most ghost towns in the usa are the old boom-bust towns – like the old gold rush era mining towns of the Wild West. Today more and more cities and towns are edging into becoming ghost towns – like Gary in the Rust Belt in Indiana. Portage is different from most of the other ghost towns in that it was destroyed with a powerful earthquake.

If one would want to see ghost towns in the usa, then Portage offers a rather unique type of ghost town. Here it's possible to see the ghost forest, the remains of the abandoned settlement, and inundated cabins of neighboring settlements.

Background and Background Of Portage

Portage is situated on Turnagain Arm in Alaska around 47 miles or 76 kilometers from Anchorage. Turnagain Arm is a waterway in to the northwestern area of the Gulf of Alaska and is known for large tides and extreme climate ranges.

  • Located: On Turnagain Arm 47 Miles From Anchorage


  • 1950: 54 Residents
  • 1960: 71 Residents

One fun fact about Turnagain Arm is it was named by William Bligh from the HMS Bounty when he was a part of one of Captain Cook's expeditions. He would will continue to have his own ship using the crew mutining partly so they could go back to the women in Tahiti.

  • William Bligh Of The HMS Bounty: Named Turnagain Arm

The mutineers would go on to find the undiscovered Pitcairn Island and settle there with their Tahitian women – their descendants carry on living there today. Pitcairn is now the place to find the earth's remotest AirBnB.

The Devastating 1964 Alaskan Earthquake

The 1964 Alaskan earthquake shook their state at 5:36 PM AKST on Good Friday, March 27. It triggered tsunamis and caused massive damage (even though the region was just sparsely populated). It claimed around 131 lives.

  • Date: Good Friday, March 27, 1964
  • Duration: 4 Minutes and 38 Seconds
  • Magnitude: 9.2 – Second Largest In Recorded History

The quake lasted for four minutes and thirty-eight seconds. It was a magnitude 9.2 megathrust earthquake and it is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in The united states and the second most powerful ever recorded in world history. The most powerful was the 9.4-9.6 magnitude 1960 Valdivia earthquake in Chile.

Around 600 miles of the fault line ruptured and moved up by 60 feet (or 18 meters) that releasing around Five centuries of pent-up stress. It led to soil liquefaction, fissures, landslides, along with other ground failures caused major structural damage in several communities and much property damage. Tsunamis in the quake-damaged places as far away as Hawaii and Japan.


  • The Faultline: Moved By Up To 60 Feet
  • Kodiak: Places Increased By 30 Feet
  • Turnagain Arm: Places Dropped by 8 Feet
  • Portage: Sank by Around 6 Feet

But while some areas around Kodiak were lifted up by 30 feet or 9 meters, some areas around Turnagain Arm dropped around 8 feet or 2.4 meters. The Seward Highway here found itself underneath the new high tide mark and thus had to be developed.

In the carnage, Portage was destroyed as the ground beneath it sank by around 6 six feet or 1.8 meters. The small settlement found itself mostly below the new high tide level.

Visiting And What To determine In Portage And Nearby Towns

In the wake from the earthquake, everything remained of Portage were ruins and a barren forest. Using the land now under the high tide, it was decided then that Portage could be abandoned. If a person goes to Portage today, there isn't so much to see of the small settlement. There are still the ruins of a few buildings and notably the “ghost forest” of trees that died following the saltwater flooded them and inundated their roots.

  • See: The “Ghost Forest” And Remains Of The Buildings

Today there is only a railroad and road junction. Nearby is the Portage Glacier that is accessed via the Seward Highway – hundreds of years ago the glacier-filled the whole Portage Valley.

The neighboring capital of scotland- Girdwood in Turnaround Arm was moved 2.5 miles in the valley because the original townsite also subsided into Turnagain Arm with a lot of the city below high tide. A nearby settlement of Alyeska was also abandoned and most of their inhabitants moved to the new Girdwood townsite too.

  • Girdwood: The Neighboring Town Moved To Higher Ground
  • Alyseka: Also Abandoned Following the Earthquake
  • See: Inundated Cabins Within the Marsh Areas

Today one can still see some of the inundated cabins within the marshy areas into that the city formerly extended.

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