There's a story about a local pioneer who in the 1950's walked the entire way to McCarthy from Cordova. Across the Copper River was a steel cable, the current bridge having not been built until 1973. Amongst all the rigors of his adventure, pulling himself across the cable inch by inch was reportedly the most exhausting. After the epic crossing he slept like a baby and happily awoke on the other side.

What you can take from this story, if nothing else, is an appreciation for getting to the other side. The Copper River Bridge is a gateway into Wrangell St. Elias National Park, and one more real and symbolic step away from civilization and into the Alaskan wilderness. For local residents it's also a gateway back home, leaving the pavement, stores, newspapers, and all else on the other side. If a dollar was donated to charity for every sigh or relief exhaled on this bridge.

Visitors are encouraged to stop on the bridge and come up with their own ceremonial gesture. The mandatory guest at this ceremony is the Copper River itself. If you listen closely you may hear the glacial silt that fills its waters scraping together as it slides under the bridge. This river has the highest concentration of silt found in any Alaskan river—a testament to the amount of active glaciers still at work in the Wrangell, St. Elias, and Chugach Mountains.

The Copper River drains 27,000 square miles of Alaskan wilderness, which is roughly the size of West Virginia. Despite only running 287 miles from the north side of the Wrangell Mountains to the Pacific, the volume of water it collects from 13 major tributaries earns it 7th place on the list of major American rivers. It also drops an average of 12 feet per mile, pushing an enormous amount of water along at 7 miles per hour.

Be careful. The water is full of silt, and it's freezing cold; you'd likely sink like a rock before reaching shore. No climbing on the bridge railings.

Getting There

Latitude: 61.52559025
Longitude: -144.4126225
Driving Directions