Copper Center, Alaska Visitor Guide
Copper Center is a small community located in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area in south-central Alaska. The town sits near the confluence of the Copper and Klutina Rivers and is surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. This visitor guide provides essential information on how to get to Copper Center, things to do, the area’s history, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.
**Latitude and Longitude**: Copper Center is located at approximately 61.9603° N latitude and 145.3059° W longitude.
Getting to Copper Center from Anchorage
Copper Center is accessible by car from Anchorage, and the most direct route is about 200 miles (322 kilometers) and takes approximately 4 hours.
1. From Anchorage, head east on the Glenn Highway (AK-1) toward Palmer.
2. Continue on the Glenn Highway past Palmer and through the scenic Matanuska River Valley.
3. At Glennallen, take a left onto the Richardson Highway (AK-4) heading south.
4. After about 15 miles (24 kilometers), you will arrive at Copper Center.
The drive to Copper Center from Anchorage offers beautiful views of mountains, rivers, and glaciers along the way. Be prepared for variable weather and road conditions, and always carry a full tank of gas, extra food, water, and emergency supplies.
Things to Do
Copper Center offers a variety of activities and attractions centered around the area’s natural beauty and rich history. Some popular things to do include:
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
Copper Center serves as a gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest national park in the United States. The park offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, backpacking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and flightseeing tours. Stop by the park’s visitor center to learn about the area’s history, geology, and wildlife, and to obtain maps and trail information.
Klutina River and Copper River
The Klutina and Copper Rivers offer excellent opportunities for fishing, rafting, and wildlife viewing. The rivers are home to salmon, trout, and grayling, making them popular destinations for anglers. Local outfitters provide guided fishing and rafting trips, as well as equipment rentals.
Ahtna Cultural Center
Visit the Ahtna Cultural Center to learn about the history and culture of the Ahtna Athabascan people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Copper River Valley. The center features exhibits, artifacts, and interpretive programs that showcase the Ahtna’s rich heritage and their connection to the land.
Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark
Take a day trip to the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark, located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Copper Center in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The landmark includes the well-preserved remains of a historic copper-mining town and offers guided tours and interpretive programs.
Copper Center was established in the late 1800s as a supply center for gold prospectors and explorers in the region. The town’s location at the confluence of the Copper and Klutina Rivers made it an ideal stopping point for river travelers. Copper Center played a significant role in the construction of the Richardson and Glenn Highways, and it remained an important transportation hub throughout the 20th century.
Today, Copper Center is primarily a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and visitors to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The town’s rich history is still evident in its historic buildings and the nearby Ahtna Cultural Center.
RV and Camping Information
Copper Center offers several RV and camping options for visitors:
Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge RV Park
This RV park, located at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, offers 21 RV sites with water and electric hookups. Amenities include restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and access to the lodge’s restaurant and gift shop.
Klutina River Campground
Klutina River Campground, operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is located a few miles south of Copper Center on the banks of the Klutina River. The campground offers 24 sites for tents and RVs, with no hookups. Amenities include vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings.
Dispersed camping is available on public lands managed by the BLM and the National Park Service in the surrounding area. Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles, practice proper food storage to minimize wildlife encounters, and respect local regulations.
Annual Festivals and Events
Copper Center hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating the area’s history and culture. Some of the annual events include:
Copper River Wild! Salmon Festival
Held in July, the Copper River Wild! Salmon Festival is a celebration of the area’s world-famous Copper River salmon. The festival features salmon-themed events, including a salmon cook-off, educational presentations, live music, and local art and crafts vendors.
Copper River Nouveau
Copper River Nouveau, also held in July, is a gourmet food and wine event that showcases the region’s culinary talents and delicious Copper River salmon. The event includes a multi-course dinner prepared by local chefs, a silent auction, and live music.
Ahtna Heritage Celebration
The Ahtna Heritage Celebration takes place in May and is a multi-day event that highlights the history, culture, and traditions of the Ahtna Athabascan people. The celebration features traditional music, dance performances, storytelling, and cultural demonstrations.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Events
Throughout the summer months, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve offers ranger-led programs, guided hikes, and interpretive talks at various locations within the park. Check the park’s event calendar or stop by the visitor center for a schedule of events during your visit.
When visiting Copper Center, be prepared for variable weather conditions and the potential for unpredictable Alaskan weather. Carry extra food, water, and warm clothing in case of emergencies, and always let someone know your travel plans. By taking these precautions and respecting the natural environment and local communities, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the rich history, stunning wilderness, and unique character of Copper Center, Alaska.
Additional Activities and Attractions
Copper Center’s location at the junction of the Richardson and Glenn Highways provides easy access to some of Alaska’s most scenic drives. Explore the Edgerton Highway and Nabesna Road, which offer stunning views of the Wrangell Mountains, glaciers, and the vast landscape of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
Take a day trip to the coastal town of Valdez, located about 110 miles (177 kilometers) south of Copper Center. Valdez is known for its stunning mountain scenery, glaciers, and rich maritime history. While in Valdez, visit the Valdez Museum, take a boat tour to the nearby Columbia Glacier, or explore the many hiking trails in the area.
Copper Center and the surrounding area offer excellent birdwatching opportunities, with a wide variety of migratory and resident bird species. Look for bald eagles, gyrfalcons, trumpeter swans, Arctic terns, and many other species as you explore the region’s rivers, wetlands, and forests.
Visiting Nearby Communities
Copper Center is just one of the many small communities in the Copper River Valley, each with its own unique history and attractions. Consider visiting nearby towns such as Gakona, Chitina, or Kenny Lake to experience the local culture, attend community events, and enjoy the beautiful landscape of south-central Alaska.