The Deserted Ghost Town of Flat, Alaska

Now a deserted ghost town, Flat, Alaska is pictured here back in 1911 when the settlement was a vibrant mining community. (Image: Lomen Bros. Flat, Alaska pictured in 1911)

The post office in Flat, Alaska closed in 2004, and the 2010 census recorded the Otter Creek ghost town’s population as zero. But though Flat’s population may have disappeared, the world-changing discoveries associated with the Alaskan ghost town remain should keep its history alive for years to come.

Gold was discovered in Otter Creek in 1908, and by 1914 some 6,000 people had moved in to seek their fortune. They built schools and stores, restaurants and hotels, as well as a pool hall. After some dispute over whether or not the town �“ which was never platted, and instead just built on mining claims �“ was really a town, the US Post Office would acknowledge its existence and serve the community for decades.

Preserved: Wiley Post's Lockheed Vega aircraft Winnie Mae in 2008. (Image: Jarek Tuszy�„ski. Preserved: Wiley Post’s Winnie Mae in 2008)

But Flat, Alaska (which lies within the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area) was destined to fade like so many other mining boom-towns of the day. A single family of five remained there until 2000, maintaining the mining equipment and the land throughout the winter months.

One notable person to settle in Flat early in the town’s history was Peter Miscovich, an inventor from Croatia. Before his death in 1950 (Miscovich had settled in Alaska), he would invent the steam-powered washing machine and make great improvements to the steam bath.

His son, John Miscovich, was also an inventor. Not only did John live in Flat, he also helped repair the aircraft that crashed there in 1933. Pioneering American aviator Wiley Post was flying a single-engine Lockheed Vega called the Winnie Mae at the time of the accident. After Miscovich and other locals helped him repair his craft, Post went on to complete the first solo flight around the world in less than eight days.

Flat Airport is seen to the east of the Alaska ghost town of the same name. (Image: Google Earth. Flat Airport is seen to the east of the ghost town)

John Miscovich continued to follow in his father’s footsteps, developing the intelligiant – the standard water cannon used in fire fighting and hydraulic gold mining. He also developed a fire-fighting system specific to airport runaways, no doubt indirectly saving countless lives over the decades.

Today, the former mining community of Flat, Alaska is a ghost town, nestled at the side of the railroad that once connected it to Iditarod, now on a national historic trail with its roots in the mail and supply route. Flat Airport (FLT), meanwhile, with its turf/gravel runway, lies alongside Golden Horn Mine Road (more info here).

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