Eklutna Village Historic Park

Eklutna Village Historic Park

Eklutna Village Historic Park
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About
This old Russian Orthodox village houses a unique cemetery, in which each grave is surrounded by a small, decorative burial house. One of the region's oldest buildings, a church built of logs, was constructed before 1870.
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4.0
4.0 of 5 bubbles111 reviews
Excellent
48
Very good
39
Average
17
Poor
6
Terrible
1

AJinVA
VA24 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021 • Family
If you can go when they are open, asking for a tour is the only way to go! If it seems closed but other people are walking around with a young bearded man or there are people in one of the churches - strongly consider waiting until they are done or asking if you can join.

Some of the religious items in the church are Russian pre-Revolution, some of the spirit houses are very recent, and all of the information of how everything relates is fascinating!

The suggested donations help preserve the historic churches and maintain the grounds (tradition requires allowing the spirit houses to return to the earth). Even if you only swing by for a look and a photo, consider donating.
Written 29 June 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

The_Wanderer1992
Columbia, MD2,538 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023 • Couples
We went here on an early Sunday afternoon. The church and giftshop were closed, so all we could do is tour the cemetery. The cemetery is interesting with the spirit houses. A guide to explain more would have been nice. We were eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Written 3 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

poukala
Macomb, MI1,485 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2022 • Couples
This was a really unique stop of a cemetery for local people. Unfortunately, there was no one at the information center in site, even though it was a Saturday after noon.
A couple of grave sites were damaged, but still most intact.
Written 24 August 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

859TK
Cincinnati, OH900 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021
Since it was on our way we made a quick stop. The church and gift store were closed when we arrived. We walked around the cemetery and was surprised with the disrepair of the houses. Would be nice if houses were better cared for and maintained.

Would not make a special trip
Written 29 August 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

jav9206
Seattle, WA237 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2015 • Solo
Less than a mile off Hwy 1 is the Eklutna Historical Park with the new and the old St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and an Orthodox Christian Cemetery. The newer church is a fully functioning church with Vespers and Matins on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. All other days are open for tours -- guided or self-guided. A woman at the gift shop and entry to the small park will open the church and give a history and meaning of the church and icons within. The old church is also open and is one of the oldest log structures in the Anchorage area. Most of those buried in the cemetery are Athabascan Indians along with some Russians and some Yupik Eskimos. The spirit houses are placed over the grave to house the spirit of the deceased and their possessions. The colors are specific to the families. It was fascinating to walk around the cemetery and read the engraved stones and see the various houses. I first visited this Park in 2000 and returned in 2015 and will return on my next visit to Alaska. It is peaceful, educational, and calming.
Written 9 August 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

TheDocIsOut
Portland, OR375 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2014 • Friends
If you are not going to take a personal tour, this place may not make much sense, and may not be worth your time. We found it absolutely fascinating and spent a bit more than an hour here. You might find this valuable if you are interested in history, Native Alaskan history, religious practices, burial rituals and practices or architecture.

Our guide spent time describing the history of the Russian Orthodox missionaries coming to Alaska, the fascinating mix of Orthodox Christianity with traditional Dena'ina Athabaskan Native beliefs, and the contemporary believers and practices.

The Old St. Nicholas Orthodox Church probably dates from the mid-19th century, and was built in Knik (just in case you don't know, the k is not silent in this name). The church was moved to Eklutna c.1900, and is the oldest standing building in the greater Anchorage area. It was used for services until the New St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was built in 1962. The new church is still used for services. You will recognize the "onion domes" as being the traditional shape of Russian Orthodox churches, and can make for nice photos.

If you visit during a service, they ask that you be respectful of the believers by not pointing your camera at their children. There are about 40 believers currently, and they stand throughout the 1-2 hour services in the very small church.

The "spirit houses" in the cemetery immediately behind the churches are one of the things that seem to be misunderstood by those who don't take time to learn about the history. The Athabaskan people believed that the dead stayed present with us on the Earth "for a period of time", before passing on to the Spirit World. Because of this, they would build the little "houses" for the spirits to inhabit. They are not maintained, because the spirit will be moving on. Instead, they are allowed to simply return to the Earth. These very bright and interesting little structures are painted with beautiful colors and patterns that completely identify the person and their family. Some are very simple, others rather elaborate "doll house" style. There are primarily two large families in this cemetery. While this tradition is not part of the Orthodox practices, the missionaries wisely allowed the local people to follow their own traditions, and thus Native and Christian became intertwined here. You will see this mix in the spirit houses with a 3-barred Byzantine cross. As I understand it, this is the only cemetery that still allows the "spirit house" tradition to continue. The main part of this cemetery has been recently closed for burials, and they are preparing a new area in the back for current use. Because markers and spirit houses were made of wood, it would be impossible to know where all the graves might be located.

This is an intriguing look into one aspect of Alaskan history, a fascinating story of how some missionaries did not feel the need to obliterate local traditions and replace them with foreign practices, and it can be a really fun photo opp for the photographers.

Stop and take the time to learn about this unique and fascinating part of Alaskan history. Depending on your personal style, I would plan on 30-90 minutes.

NOTE: Do take your Mosquito Repellant, lest You become the picnic! The mosquitoes here do seem to love foreign food, whether slow or fast.
Written 11 July 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Engletina K
West Lafayette, IN77 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2017
As a child, our Girl Scout troop winter-camped near Eklutna Glacier. The camping experience was quite nice because we were prepared for the cold and snow on a Mother's Day outing, and a little walk down to the lake near the receding glacier yielded a tiny piece of very aromatic cedar. To this day, I kept it, and it reminds me of the experience. However, the grandeur of Eklutna is not the lake, nor the glacier, the Eklutna Flats, nor the mighty Eklutna River rushing to the arm of the sea, but the old village name used to demarcate a proud ancestry and historical tradition. My father told me stories of the tunnel for the underground river and construction of the old power plant, and the village technical school, and other entities which evoke special consideration connected to their namesake. No, the real beauty of this cemetery is that it represents a special relationship with the past and the future. An article from the local Chugiak-Eagle River Star states, "Four schools – Chugiak High School, Gruening Middle School, Birchwood ABC and Eagle River Elementary – sit on millions of dollars’ worth of Eklutna land", as quoted by the corporation’s real estate manager, Greg McDonald. "But collectively, Eklutna only charges the Anchorage School District $10 per year for all four sites." "That’s not something Eklutna’s tribal people and board members like to advertise", McDonald said. "As a non-shareholder and non-tribal member from the Lower 48, he said, the Eklutna people’s humility has made a big impression on him." However, that is only one way Eklutna has contributed to the community. Eklutna represents the best in Alaska, a shy, almost non-descript almost shabby in appearance but filled and busting with a proud tradition of meaningful celebration.
Written 6 December 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Maeve
2 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2019 • Solo
Just off the highway, and an absolute hidden treasure of a place.

I stopped by on my way further north and really loved this place. I got a solo tour of the property and it was so interesting. My tour guide (I'm forgetting her name - sorry!) was so friendly and knowledgable. She walked me through the spirit houses telling me about all the families and stories of the people, as well as the saints within the church.
She also stayed outside with me as I walked around the spirit houses because there was a mother and baby moose sighting that morning.

Some people have commented that it looks rundown, but it was mentioned that person's families come to deal with the weeds around the spirit houses.
Written 21 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Cap Chastain
Anchorage, AK17,482 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2018 • Couples
My wife and I rate our visit to The Eklutna Village Historic Park as excellent. We have a condo in Anchorage and we both are interested in local history. This is not to say that everyone visiting the Anchorage area would agree that this is an excellent attraction. First, it is about a 30-minute drive North of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. I am not sure all visitors would want to invest at least 1-1/2 hours of precious time visiting the (old and new) churches.

This opinion being expressed, we are extremely happy that we made the drive. Of course there are many other attractions between the Village of Eklutna and Anchorage. But to visit several of them, can suddenly turn out to be a full day.
Written 1 February 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ChiefGuru
Decatur, IN3,300 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2016 • Friends
The historical park is relatively tiny. However, for history lovers this is worth a stop. You can take a self guided tour or a volunteer member of the Russian Orthodox Church (yes the New Saint Nicholas Church at the site is still active) will give a tour. I strongly recommend that you take the "guided" tour. Our guide was excellent in knowing and sharing the history of the church in a very detailed and interesting manner. She actually made this stop for our group of six. We were actually traveling south to Anchorage. However, this park is barely a thirty minute drive North of Anchorage. Two small churches are at the site. The old St. Nicholas church was built in Knik around 1870 and moved around 1900 to Eklutha. The old St. Nicholas church is the oldest standing building in the greater Anchorage area, making it worth seeing. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The old church was used until the new St. Nicholas church was built in 1962 by the people of Eklutna. The project was headed by the Athabaskan Chief Mike Maxim Alex. As i shared above, it is still a fully functioning church. I never understood the reason for the difference between what I considered a traditional cross and the Russian Orthodox cross. As our guide explained, the Three-Barred Cross existed very early in Byzantium, but was adopted by the Russian Orthodox Church. The upper arm represents the inscription over Christ's head, and the lower slanting bar represents his footrest. The origin of this slanted footboard is not known, but in the symbolism of the Russian Orthodox Church, the most common explanation is that it is the pointing upward to Paradise for the Good Thief on Jesus' right who acknowledged him and downward to Hell for the Thief on his left. Another draw for a quick stop here are the Spirit Houses. The interior of Alaska is home to the Athabaskan Native Peoples. Specific to the Eklutna area are the Danaina or Tanaina, Athabaskans. The colorful spirit houses are a uniquely Athabaskan tradition. Spirit houses were / are built by the family after a person’s death. Each "house" has colors specific to that family's lineage. Further, each house is built and decorated to specially memorialize that person. Interestingly, the houses are not maintained. To person was interred above ground in these houses, which over the course of time were allowed to deteriorate / decay and again become part of the earth. A mixture of old and new now exists at the cemetery with a more conventional below ground burial, but with a spirit house above. This is an unique mix of native tradition with the practices and beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. The graves of the Athabaskan people are marked not only with their traditional spirit houses, but also with an Orthodox Christian Cross. Separate are graves marked only with crosses, honoring the resting places of the Orthodox non- native members of the church. So yes, make a stop here and expand your historical knowledge.
Written 10 September 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Eklutna Village Historic Park - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024) - Tripadvisor

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