John Gillespie once hiked over Portage Glacier, down Portage Valley, on to Sunrise with a cookstove on his back, a surprise delivery for his sister Nellie Frost. Portage Valley’s contemporary name describes what its geography prescribed: an overland passage between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm. Long used as a trade route by Native peoples, it was also a pathway for gold miners to bring their supplies. Nellie Frost’s story is one of many about the people, paths, and places of the area.
“Discover the Story: People, Paths and Places” is the theme for the new Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm (KMTA) National Heritage Area exhibit at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center in Portage. The exhibit will be on public display throughout the summer, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through September 19.
The exhibit features historic photos with captions that introduce some of the evocative people, places, and pathways that shape the story of the KMTA National Heritage Area. The photos — from a portrait of Chief Affanasi to Whittier’s Buckner Building — were assembled from private and library collections statewide.
The KMTA National Heritage Area recognizes the compelling history of an area that cradles some of Alaska’s the most influential crossroads. The invitation by the Begich Boggs Visitor Center for an exhibit was welcomed by KMTA as an opportunity to heighten awareness of the area’s unique and important history.
The Begich Boggs Visitor Center, located five miles from the Seward Highway on Portage Glacier Road, is operated by Chugach National Forest. Interpreters at the Visitor Center can provide maps, brochures, and safe summer adventuring advice. The Recreational Use Fee for exhibits at the Visitor Center is $5 for adults. Children under 15 are free. A recreational guide for Portage Valley and the resources at the Visitor Center was published in the 2016 Turnagain Times Summer Recreation Guide.
The KMTA National Heritage Area provides grants for historic preservation and other educational projects that bolster awareness of the area’s scenic, cultural, historic, and recreational resources.