Strategically located at the confluence of the Klutina and Copper Rivers, Copper Center was originally a large, winter village for Ahtna Athabascan families who have lived in the region for more than 5,000 years. The first lodge in the Copper River Basin was built in 1896 and provided a soft bed and a hot meal to travelers, most of them miners following the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail during the gold rushes of 1897-98. Eventually, Copper Center evolved into the principal supply center for miners in the Nelchina-Susitna region, adding a telegraph station and post office in 1901 and a school four years later.
ABOUT COPPER CENTER (AHTNA ATHABASCAN: TL’ATICAE’E)
Since the creation of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in 1980, Copper Center has served as one of the gateways for visitors entering the massive national park. It is a full-service community with a small selection of accommodations, restaurants, campgrounds, supplies, gas, and tire repair.
The Wrangell-St Elias National Park Headquarters & Visitor Center is along the Richardson Highway just outside Copper Center. The National Park Service center has exhibits and videos on the park and is the best place for information and suggestions on exploring the area's backcountry, whether on foot or by raft. There is also a bookstore that sells maps and guidebooks to the park.
A number of charter fishing operators are based in Copper Center and specialize in outings on the Klutina, Gulkana, and other local tributaries of the Copper River. Major king salmon runs occur from late June to early August while sockeye salmon are present from mid-July to September.
Housed in two rustic log bunkhouses next to the original site of the historic Copper Center Lodge is The George I. Ashby Memorial Museum. The cabins are packed with artifacts from the 1898 gold stampede and the copper years of the Kennicott Mine along with Athabascan basketwork, traps, and many historic photos. The museum also has a fine selection of local art and crafts as well as books about Copper Center's history. The museum is on the current grounds of the Old Town Copper Center Inn, featuring accommodations and a restaurant.
Explore more in the Copper River Valley.
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