|a l a s k a j o u r n e y . c o m|
|Southcentral Mountains & Prince William Sound|
Location/Climate: Miles 101105 Richardson Highway, on Copper River. 9"/yr. precip., 39"/yr. snowfall, -74°F96°F.
Population: 494 (34.5 percent native, mainly Athabascan).
Travel Attractions: Copper River access, WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve access and information.
Getting There: Vehicle access via the Richardson Highway (AK 4); regular and charter small-plane air service.
Information: WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve Headquarters, P.O. Box 439, Mile 105.5 Richardson Highway, Copper Center, 822-5234, www.nps.gov/wrst.
A long-time fishing camp for the Ahtna Athabascan Indians, the native village eventually grew into a "tent city" for miners taking the Eagle Trail from Valdez to the Yukon River and on to the Klondike. Soon thereafter, travelers shifted their attentions to Fairbanks and other gold fields. Ringwald Blix built a roadhouse here in 1896 and Copper Center quickly became an important trade and supply center for the region. In 1932 the original roadhouse was replaced by the Copper Center Lodge, which still operates today and is one of the best lodging/dining places in the state.
To visit Copper Center, detour from the new Richardson Highway bypass at Mile 100.2 or 106. Services are along this stretch, as is the headquarters for WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve. The lodge and oldest settled area are found along Copper Loop Road, which loops east from the Old Richardson Highway and back again.
See heritage exhibits at the Ashby Museum located within the lodge, open Monday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Close by is the Chapel on the Hill, built by Vince Joy and army volunteers in 1942, now featuring slide presentations. Call 822-3291 for information. Other historic buildings are scattered throughout the area, though theyre generally on private land and not open to the public. River guides operate out of Copper Center; the town is one of several put-in sites for Copper River floats.
Where to Stay and Eat in Copper Center
Copper Center Lodge, Drawer J, Mile 101 Richardson Highway (on Loop RoadOld Richardson Highway), 822-3245. $95 single/double (private bath), $85 single/double (shared bath) summer. A classic, historic Alaska roadhouse inn. Wonderfully kept with an attention to detail. Perhaps the best place on the Copper River. Fine restaurant. RH