There is just something so creepy about a place that completely closes off to the outside world for the majority of the year. This tiny town may be a thriving little hot spot during the summer months, but what comes next will give you the chills. Nearly all of the businesses close down and you can count the number of residents on both your hands. The only way out is via snowmachine or if the weather is good, you might have a slim chance of hopping on a tiny little bush plane and making it back to civilization. If total darkness, abandoned buildings and complete isolation don’t give you the chills, then think about this: if you scream, the chance of someone hearing you is slim to none.
Hop on the Taylor Highway and make your way 65 miles from Tetlin Junction to the tiny town of Chicken. As you make the drive you will notice lots of wide open countryside surrounding you. Admire massive amounts of wildlife, lakes and lots of random remnants left over from Alaska's gold rush past.
Right before entering the tiny town of Chicken you will cross over a muddy bridge into town. Because of the extreme winter temperatures in this area, Chicken is only accessible via road during the summer months and is basically a ghost town during the winter months, with the exception of a handful of locals that live in the community year-round. The road in during the winter months is filled with frost heaves due to the underlying permafrost. It is so intense (and brutally dangerous) that the road completely closes every year.
In the wintertime the town is pretty creepy as there is no incoming traffic with the exception of those coming in by snowmachine. Limited sunlight makes the down extra dark for months on end, which adds to the eerie feeling that undoubtedly takes over as you look around and realize that you are basically all alone in the middle of nowhere. With the exception of a huge metal chicken statue that is constantly staring at you. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of, folks... the chicken apocalypse! Yikes!
Located southeast of Fairbanks, this town is incredibly remote and home to only about 10 year-round residents.
During the summer months when this desolate ghost town is actually accessible via road, it becomes a thriving little community filled with gold miners, hunters, trappers, artists, tourists and outdoor enthusiasts from all around the world. To this day there are still several active gold mines in the area and the town of Chicken is actually the outpost for the '40 Mile' mining district.
Chicken was established originally by gold miners in the late 1800s, but it officially become a town in 1902 when the first post office was put in.
As the story goes, the townspeople wanted to name the community ptarmigan after the official Alaska state bird, the willow ptarmigan. But due to confusion on how to correctly spell 'ptarmigan' they decided to name the community 'Chicken' instead, to avoid embarrassment. So why chicken? Well, if you look at a ptarmigan and a chicken side by side you'll notice that they actually strike an uncanny resemblance.
So as far as the silly name is concerned, that was the beginning and then the rest is history! But of course, there is no getting around the classic 'egg sign' on display once you enter into town. It was put up years ago and, in true Alaskan fashion, locals love humor behind it and aren't concerned about concerning any prudes coming into town. You just gotta love that!
Now, onto the creepy stuff. Although Chicken is "one of the few surviving gold rush towns" in Alaska, it is so sparsely populated that it feels like a completely abandoned ghost town, especially during the winter. After the early 1900's when hundreds of miners occupied the area, many old buildings and dredges were completely abandoned as workers up and fled the area. There is nothing creepier than driving through an eerily quiet town and wondering what might live inside those old structures that are rotting away. Pictured above is the Jack Wade Dredge which was finally dismantled in 2007 after being brought to the area in 1907.
But the beautiful thing about this town is that community locals and other Alaskans alike have truly taken pride in preserving the rich history that this town holds. The Pedro Dredge (which was used for gold) is now listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
As you tour the town on a sunny summer day, you'll also notice that there are many remnants from the past that have also been preserved.
To show you the true complexity of the kinds of rowdy crowds that the gold rush could attract, there is even an old original sign in Chicken that spells out in plain English that no guns or knives were allowed in bars. After long days of gold dredging without anything else to do, we imagine that the bars could get pretty wild after hours.
Many original buildings from the 1900s which are a part of the Chicken Historic District are also now listed on the National Register of Historical Places. It's incredible to see how these buildings have been refurbished over the years and how much pride the local residents have taken into growing their community.
A variety of (mainly seasonal) businesses now attract people from all over the world each summer. Gift shops, art shops, gold panning and restaurant(s) fill the main stretch and offer lots of options for visitors to enjoy. Of course, in true Chicken fashion, there are plenty of quirky things to check out too (such as the 'Chicken Poop' shop). As the saying goes in Alaska, "the odds are good but the goods are odd." But heck, we'd rather be weird than boring any day of the week!