Community Profile: Copper River Princess

07/09/2010
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Even if you don’t blink between Mileposts 101 and 106 of the Richardson Highway, you could pass by Copper Center and not even see it. That’s because — quite simply — the road was moved. In 1988, the Richardson Highway was straightened, bypassing the loop of the now Old Richardson Highway that flanks Copper Center. So it’s now technically a little out of the way, but the loop through town is worth the few extra miles.

Copper Center sprang up as one of the first tent cities during the god rush by miners seeking a shortcut to the Klondike. Then came Ringwald Blix, coined the “Grand Poobah” of Copper Center. In 1896, he built a roadhouse, was named U.S. Commissioner, postmaster, notary public, hotel proprietor, farmer and miner.  Soon after the turn of the century, Copper Center became a major military telecommunications route between Valdez and Fairbanks. Many historic buildings still remain, including the Copper Center Lodge (in the location of Ringwald’s original roadhouse), The Chapel on the Hill and the Copper Valley Historical Society Museum.

Copper Center may have been established as a valuable transportation route, but today this area has earned its reputation as a destination in itself. With the confluence of the Copper and Klutina rivers, fishing is superb, and a lesser-known hot spot than other areas of the state. Whitewater rafting offers viewing stops and an interpretation of the geological history, early US Army exploration and the gold rush history of the region. It’s also the perfect base camp for adventures into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Whether you choose to fly or drive into the park, you will fall in love with the quaint town of Wrangell and the abandoned Kennicott copper mines, their bright red structures jetting out from the mountainside.

All of these experiences can be booked at the Tour Desk at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge.

“Community Profile” is a blog series that provides a closer look at the towns, history and events near Princess lodges in Alaska.