Katalla is a ghost town located on the Katalla River in the Chugach National Forest near Controller Bay and the Bering River, and about 50 miles (81 km) southeast of Cordova. The name is derived from the Eyak word for “bay”.
Oil and gas seeps occur along a narrow coastal strip between the Copper River Delta and the Bering Glacier. At least 75 oil seeps and 11 gas seeps have been observed. Alaska natives likely knew about these seeps, but a prospector named Thomas White is given credit for discovering oil near the head of the Katalla Slough in 1896 and staking the first oil claims.
After a few earlier failed attempts, in 1902, the Alaska Development Company drilled a well to a depth of 366 feet (112 m) and obtained a commercially viable flow of oil. From 1901 through 1951, at least 44 wells were drilled or started in the Katalla area. A small refinery was built approximately one-half mile northwest of the field in 1912, producing gasoline and other products that were sold locally and in Cordova. A total of about 154,000 barrels were produced until 1933 when the refinery burned, and because of economic conditions, it was never rebuilt. The town population dwindled and the local post office closed in 1943. By the mid-1940s only 12 permanent residents remained in Katalla, and it soon became a ghost town. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Katalla townsite and Controller Bay here: