If you see a salmon here in the river, it swam nearly 300 miles to lay its eggs in a headwaters, freshwater tributary of the Copper River. Alaska’s greatest renewable resource needs respect and care for its spawning streams to continue reproducing and providing high quality food for subsistence, personal use, and commercial harvesters.
Stop here for a bathroom break and stretch your legs by the creek. Little creeks drain into bigger creeks and create bigger rivers. Learn how the waters in this small creek make their way to the Gulf of Alaska.
The town of Glenallen is named after two early explorers. Henry Allen was a lieutenant who travelled through this area in 1885 on his way to the Yukon River, and Capt. Edwin Glenn was part of the U.S. Government survey crew for the Richardson Highway that came through in 1898-99. Glennallen is also a part of the Copper River Watershed. Find the interpretive sign at the visitor's center and orient yourself in the watershed with a map of Ahtna native placenames.
Take in the sweep of the Copper River as it unfolds through the valley bottom, and imagine its changes throughout the seasons from high summer flows to freeze up in the fall. Over winter it is an iced-over travel route for winter mushers and wildlife, and during spring break up the ice pans rumble their way down stream as the sun returns to the Copper Basin.
Traveling the Richardson Highway south of Glennallen, you will pass Willow Lake with spectacular views of the lake and the Wrangell Mountain volcanoes in the distance. Read about how ancient Lake Atna once filled the area you’re driving through and shaped the Copper River valley.
Historic Copper Center is one of the oldest non-native communities in Alaska's Interior. Founded as a government agricultural experimental station, it later served as a transportation center for gold rush prospectors. Also find the interpretive sign where you'll learn about the local fish species that make their home in different habitat niches of Copper River watershed creeks and rivers.
The Ahtna Native people called this “place that waters divide.” Here on the north side of the Chugach Mountains, you’ll see how rivers flow north, draining into the Copper River, before they flow south to cut a canyon through the mountains on their way to the Gulf of Alaska.
You're now looking at the Chitina River just before it merges with the Copper River and disappears out of view. The braided Chitina below actually carries more water than the Copper River, despite losing the name battle. (It's actually more of a name tie, though, as Chitina is the native word for copper.) Heavy rains, floods, and outbursts from glacially-dammed lakes can fill More...