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10 Reasons to Visit Portlock, Alaska

Portlock Alaska

Located along the southern edge of the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska is Portlock, a town on Port Chatham Bay. The Aleut people have inhabited this beautiful area overflowing with fish on the Kenai Peninsula for many thousands of years. The first settlement in Portlock didn’t pop up until the 1780s and mainly consisted of fishermen, lumbermen, and miners.

Portlock, which was once a small fishing town in southwest Alaska, is recognized to be among the most notorious of Alaska’s ghost towns – and all that remains is an odd assortment of old and rusted cannery equipment, a mine tunnel, and several house pilings that have fallen into disrepair.

So, what’s all the mystery surrounding this small town in a part of the world that few people have ever had the opportunity to visit? Read on to learn the eerie, yet-to-be-explained haunting history that happened in this beautiful but now abandoned town in what remains of the wilderness in the largest state in the U.S. by area.

Welcome to Portlock, Alaska.

Once upon a time, the tiny town of Portlock, Alaska, was a vibrant, lively town thriving on an industry supported by salmon canneries. The community of Portlock, Alaska, looked prosperous with a bright future ahead.

To provide some history, many believe that the village of Portlock was established by the British Royal Navy. The British Naval Captain Nathanial Portlock was said to have landed there in 1787, and hence, the settled town was named in his honor. However, many people debate that Captain Nathaniel Portlock sailed past this location and anchored upstream, closer to the Cook Inlet, perhaps one of the many mysteries that will never be solved about Portlock, Alaska.

Portlock maintained itself as a thriving community in the early part of the twentieth century – when most residents abandoned it and moved down the coast - to nearby villages, but Portlock. This was not the first time Portlock’s residents had been spooked because notes recorded by the Portlock cannery management team reveal that the area had been abandoned/vacated in 1905 when Native Workers insisted there was somethingin the forest. However, workers returned to the cannery the following year.

So, What Happened in Portlock, Alaska?

Local history notes that there have been reported sightings of an unexplained hairy creature that stalked and even assaulted the villagers and residents of Portlock. Some reports include alleged murders and bodies left in the forests surrounding this eerie little town.

If you believe the residents of the nearby villages (i.e., Seldovia, Port Graham, etc.), Portlock and surrounding areas are haunted.

While there has been some movement to reestablish Portlock, getting there is extremely challenging because of its remarkably remote location. It’s not easy to get to Portlock, and even if you could, would you want to?

Reason to Visit Portlock Alaska – Our Methodology

The eerie history and downright creepiness of this bona fide ghost town simply wrote its own list of reasons to visit – that is, if you want to experience one of the most memorable stops on any Alaskan vacation.

So, if you’ve got the stomach for adventure and a taste for macabre tourism, consider these ten reasons to visit this less-than-well-known ghost town in Alaska.

The 10 Reasons to Visit Portlock, Alaska

Ironically, Portlock’s future lies in its ruins and hair-raising history -

1. Portlock is Alaska’s Creepiest Town.

As notes, Alaska and America’s Pacific Northwest have always been ground zero for tales about Bigfoot/Sasquatch. Portlock, with Port Chatham as its nearest city, is a town defined by the presence of Bigfoot.

What began as a cannery village – which ran for years without incident, eventually became abandoned because villagers noted that strange things started and continued to happen. As the narrative goes, an unknown, scary creature began terrorizing Portlock, with residents in crisis, claiming the creature was stalking and killing people. By 1949, whoever had remained in Portlock simply had enough – enough of random discoveries of dismembered bodies in the river and other horrid tales of danger and mayhem.

So, the remaining Portlock residents left – and no one has yet to return.

And for the more courageous of Alaska visitors, you can still find relics in the woods and on the beach when visiting Alaska’s most famous ghost town and maybe delight in finding your insight into what happened in Portlock.

2. Portlock’s History is fascinating. Enough for Discovery+ to Film a Series About It.

In 2021, the cable channel - Discovery+ released a reality television show - Alaskan Killer Bigfoot - that was filmed in and around Portlock. The series follows a team exploring the various relics/ruins of the now-abandoned Portlock village – to see what can be discovered about a Bigfoot-like creature and its murderous intent that sent Portlock residents fleeing more than seven decades earlier.

The expedition’s objective is to return to the abandoned fishing village to determine if the chilling beast – known locally as Nantinaq - will allow the town to be resettled safely. Note that nantinaq is from a specific Kenai Peninsula dialect, which translates to "those who steal people."

Alaskan Killer Bigfoot premiered on Discovery+ at the end of 2021, with a full cable TV debut on the Travel Channel about six months later. When visiting Portlock, you can check out some of the filming locales for yourself.

3. The Town of Portlock’s History is the Stuff Nightmares are Made Of.

Even if you disregard Bigfoot murders, no one can seriously deny that this small fishing town has had more than its share of bad luck – especially during the years that led up to its final days. Below is just a smattering of some of the more sinister and horrible Portlock events -

  • Andrew Kamluck was found dead in 1931 after suffering a vicious blow to the head – no suspects.
  • Although the date is disputed, at some later point in time, a group of cannery workers went for a walk in the nearby forest/hills and, without explanation, were never seen again. Later, one of their horribly mutilated bodies (or everyone, depending on who you ask/believe) was found after it had washed downstream into the waters near Portlock.
  • On another occasion, local hunters discovered human-like footprints (that were 18 inches long) leading up to a flattened bush – this, too, was unexplained.
  • Another local resident and fisherman (Tom Larson) reported seeing a large hairy creature clumsily walking near the beach. He ran for his rifle at home only to find that the creature on the beach was gone and nowhere to be discovered.

You get the point – Portlock’s history is, at best, beguiling and, at worst, downright unnerving.

4. The Evidence About Portlock Doesn’t Add Up, But The Town Remains a Curiosity.

Remember the list of grisly deaths and scary sightings that happened to many people over the years?

Well, for some still unexplained reasons, these horrific events never reached any national newspapers – not even a small heading on a back page. Even when researchers took the time to look through the newspapers and microfilm from the 1700s through the early 1960s, the Portlock stories that mainly were found had to do with an oddball fishing story or a tale about an old Alaska mining town.  

  • Only one death was reported during the parameters of the research -  an accident- with few details involving a young man in 1920. However, given the dangerous work in mining, fishing, and lumbering, one death would hardly be considered surprising or suspicious.
  • As far as any missing persons reports found by the researchers, there was one that involved two hunters on a two-week trip by boat in 1917 and not seen again.

Maybe the fact that there was only one death reported during that time is suspicious itself.

5. Much of Portlock’s History Remains Unexplained – Which is Likely Its Main Attraction.

Whether you believe the story of Bigfoot, Portlock’s a mystery because no one has yet offered a viable explanation as to why this thriving community became an abandoned ghost town after just a few decades. And, even if it is not known at this time, there had to be a reason (or maybe more than one reason) for the townsfolk to have abandoned Portlock.  

Tales of strange occurrences and floating dismembered bodies in Portlock Alaska would likely cause some people to leave the village, but for an entire town to leave and abandon a once-thriving fishing community – well, that is still a mystery without an answer.

Juneau’s Hidden History told that there was a populated town that even had a U.S. official post office that was established in 1921. The facts as they are known but unsolved include –

  • Portlock, Alaska, was once a census-designated place.
  • The villagers left Portlock.
  • The Post Office and the rest of town shut down.
  • Over twenty years, there have been approximately three dozen people reported as murdered or gone and never heard from again.

6. The Place Offers Great Solitude.

Regardless of whether you are a Bigfoot believer, there are many people who have and still believe Bigfoot to be real and not some fantastical made-up creature. As reports, every year, visitors to the area refuse to even step onto the shores of Portlock, let alone explore what is left of the abandoned and ruined town.

The result? Portlock, Alaska, offers a quiet and beautiful location for hiking and other outdoor adventures. To be sure, stay aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes peeled for anything large, angry, and hairy.

7. It’s an Ideal Halloween Destination.

Even if you remain a Bigfoot skeptic and refuse to believe the sinister tales about a yet-to-be-verified creature, Portlock’s location and reputation are still one of the best and maybe most haunted Halloween destinations.

The abandoned and run-down homes and commercial structures/outbuildings may give pause to the biggest skeptics and thrill seekers in the group.

8. Bigfoot Is Not Portlock’s Only Issue.

If Portlock’s residents thought things were spooky when Bigfoot appeared and reappeared from time to time, things got dramatically worse when kids began to see a lady dressed in black appearing from behind the cliffs.

Yet according to stories provided by Portlock’s oldest surviving resident, Malania Kehl, to the newspaper The Homer Tribune, this mystery woman would appear wearing a long dress dragging on the ground, with a strikingly white face. In time, she would simply disappear back into the nearby cliffs.

9. Each Year Adds a New Chapter to Portlock’s Rich, if Eerie History.

Apparently, Bigfoot has a long lifespan, so reports continue to add to the peculiar Portlock happenings. As recently as 2018, Extreme Expeditions Northwest led an expedition that successfully caught on their thermal cameras a two-legged figure with no neck between its body and large head.

This Alaska fishing village may have been abandoned by its residents, but it seems the Nantiinaq or Bigfoot/Sasquatch is still on the prowl.

10. How Will You Know the Truth If You Don’t Explore The Area For Yourself?

Is Bigfoot a lie? Or is there any truth in the story about Portlock, Alaska?

Has the story been exaggerated as a half-truth?

Ultimately, you’ll never know… unless you go and decide for yourself on a trip to Alaska’s most southern tip.

And the rest of the story….

So, is there a viable or verifiable explanation for the death of the town or the reason residents abandoned Portlock Alaska?

Well, yes, and it has little to do with fantastic stories of murder and mayhem and more to do with the completion of Alaska Route 1 along the opposite edge of the Kenai Peninsula sometime in the 1940s. The new route opened more efficient transportation options between many peninsula towns and Anchorage. This meant that ships were not needed to supply the towns on the peninsula because the towns now had highway access.

Towns that had no access to the newly built highway — like Portlock — were quickly abandoned. Even to this day, if you visit the area, you will find that there is only one unpaved road in the forest with 10 kilometers of the town of Port Chatham.

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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