Location / Coordinates: Copper Center is located on the west bank of the Copper River at the confluence of the Klutina River, along the Richardson Highway between Mileposts 100 and 105. It is It lies just west of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Headquarters.
Coordinates: Latitude 61.96 & Longitude 45.31.
Population / Elevation: Roughly 550 hardy souls live year ‘round in and around Copper Center at a thousand feet above sea level.
Description: A few rustic buildings are scattered around Copper Center. Most of the town is now off the main road. Copper Center’s economy is based on local services and businesses, the National Park offices and highway-related tourism. Several RV parks and river boat charter services operate from Copper Center.
What to do there: During the summer season, stop in at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center for topographical maps and trip suggestions for Copper Center and the surrounding area. Get up-to-date information on backcountry hiking. View a short slide presentation on the history of the Copper River Basin area at the Chapel on the Hill. Take a look at mining history and artifacts of the Native Peoples who have and still do live here in Copper Center at the George Ashby Museum—don’t leave until you’ve seen the record-holding moose rack. Breakfast at the Copper Center Lodge is a must. Sourdough pancakes, made from starter as old as Copper Center itself, is always on the menu.
History: In 1896, Copper Center became the first white settlement in the area. At the turn of the last century, Copper Center became an important stop-over for thousands of miners seeking to find their fortunes in gold. The Blix Roadhouse was built in 1897 and continues to operate in Copper Center today. The Trail of ’98 from Valdez over the glaciers came down from the mountains and joined with the Eagle Trail to Forty Mile and Dawson at Copper Center. The winters then as now were harsh and the food, well it was expensive. Hundreds of destitute and lonely miners wintered here and many died of scurvy.
Copper Center became the principal supply center for miners in the Nelchina-Susitna region. In 1901 communication came to Copper Center with the WAMCATS (Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System). A telegraph station and post office were established the same year. Soon after a school was constructed, which brought a number of Native families to the area. In 1909, the settlement was designated a government agricultural experiment station.
In 1932, the original Blix Roadhouse was torn down and rebuilt as the Copper Center Lodge. This lodge is on the National Register of Historic Roadhouses. Construction of the Richardson and Glenn highways in the late 30’s and early 40s’ made the Copper Center region a bit more accessible.
How to get there: Take the New Richardson Highway from Glennallen south or from Valdez north, turn east at Milepost 100.2 or at Milepost 106 to drive through town. With the New Richardson Highway, Copper Center is no longer on the main road.
Facilities: There are a couple of lodges. The historic Copper Center Lodge & Roadhouse is for those with a taste for adventure. The food here is good—save room for homemade pie! The newer, pricier, Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge is for those who like their creature comforts and espresso.
RV info: There aren’t any formal RV parks in Copper Center.