Located 221 miles northwest of Anchorage in Interior Alaska, McGrath was a seasonal Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan village, which was used as a meeting and trading site for Big River, Nikolai, Telida and Lake Minchumina residents in the early 1900s. Since McGrath was the northernmost point on the Kuskokwim River accessible by large riverboats, it became a regional supply center. A town was established at the site of Old McGrath in 1907, and was named for Peter McGrath, a local United States Marshal. Originally located across the river, it was adjacent to the Kuskokwim River directly south of its confluence with the Takotna River.
After a major flood in 1933, most residents moved across the river. Changes in the course of the river eventually left the old site on a slough, making it useless as a river stop. In 1940, an airstrip was cleared, the United States Federal Aviation Administration built a communications complex, and a school was opened. McGrath became an important refueling stop for Lend-Lease equipment during World War II.
At the 2010 Census, the population of McGrath was 346 individuals with more than half sharing Athabascan, Aleut, and both Yupik and Iñupiaq Eskimo ancestry.
Extreme Climate -70° to 90°F
The McGrath area has a cold, continental climate with average summer temperatures ranging from 62 to 90 degrees fahrenheit, and winter temperatures ranging from -70 to zero degrees. Precipitation is light, averaging 10 inches per year, and an average snowfall of 86 inches each winter. The Kuskokwim River is generally ice-free from May through early October.
No Road to McGrath
There are no publicly maintained roads to McGrath, but there is an infrastructure of local roads. Winter trails are marked to Nikolai (50 miles) and Takotna (20 miles). Residents rely on air service and barges to deliver cargo.
McGrath is a checkpoint for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, which since 1973 is an annual long-distance sled dog race that takes place in early March from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.