Photo Credit: Tim Nothstine

Copper River Highway (Cordova to Bridge)

The 49.5 mile Copper River Highway leads from the town of Cordova to the Million Dollar Bridge. The Million Dollar Bridge was once used by the railroad to haul copper from Kennicott to the port of Cordova, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Aside from the bridge, there are several highlights along this fairly short highway, such as great trails and scenic lookout points.

NOTE: The Copper River Highway is currently closed beyond mile 36, where there is a failed bridge. As of this time, the road does not go beyond that point.

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Highway Guide

Cor­do­va is known in to the locals as Alaska’s hid­den trea­sure. It’s a small, hard-work­ing fish­ing com­mu­ni­ty with a pop­u­la­tion of about 2,270. Locat­ed near the mount of the Cop­per Riv­er, it nes­tles peace­ful­ly at the head of Orca Inlet in Prince William sound and has a mys­tique all its own. In the area are glac­i­er-carved moun­tains, wildlife-rich wet­lands, lush forests, and count­less water­ways that host many excit­ing activ­i­ties such as skiing,…  ...more

In part 2, we will look at the pro­posed changes and restora­tion to var­i­ous loca­tions around Eyak Lake. The project includes replac­ing many inef­fi­cient cul­verts with fish friend­ly access cul­verts for spawn­ing salmon and a short bridge seg­ment near Mavis Island to improve sed­i­ment and tur­bid­i­ty for­ma­tion along the shore where salmon spawn. Signs of lake ero­sion and habi­tat destruc­tion can be seen when dri­ving along Pow­er Creek Road and the…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles

The 3.3‑mile long trail is most­ly board­walk over muskeg. This is an excel­lent spot to bird-watch, look for water­fowl feed­ing on Eyak Lake. Trum­peter swans fre­quent this lake. Most fly south for the win­ter how­ev­er, up to 100 swans will win­ter here in this ice-free lake. 

Sun­dews are amaz­ing car­niv­o­rous plants that live in poor soil con­di­tions and catch insects in an inge­nious way to sup­ple­ment their needs for nitro­gen and oth­er nutri­ents that the sur­round­ing soil lacks. Hik­ing in areas where the ground is wet and spongy or bog­gy, you will like­ly find the tiny car­niv­o­rous plants wait­ing for their next insect meal. Look for a small plant grow­ing close to the ground with bright red leaves the size of a pencil…  ...more

Fall time is beau­ti­ful any­where in Alas­ka, but the changes in the area around Cor­do­va and the Cop­per Riv­er Delta are tru­ly breath­tak­ing. Learn about the insect activ­i­ty that takes place in this sea­son with a detailed look at insect mim­ic­ry and a harm­less bee look-alike called the flower fly. These insects are usu­al­ly found in the autumn in areas with flow­er­ing plants includ­ing people’s gar­dens and yards and where ever flow­ers abound like…  ...more

Watch for wildlife in this aquat­ic area, look for the beaver lodge. Beavers are com­mon on most lakes and marsh­es all over Alas­ka. If you look close­ly enough, you’ll see lodges, dams and canals on many of the water­ways along the high­way. If you’re lucky, a beaver may even be swim­ming nearby.

There’s a cov­ered pavil­ion here with inter­pre­tive plaques about the Chugach Nation­al For­est area and the Cop­per Riv­er Delta. The Cop­per Riv­er Delta is the largest con­tin­u­ous wet­land on the west coast of North America.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles

An access road leads to the ter­mi­nus of Sheri­dan Glac­i­er and the trail­head for Sheri­dan Moun­tain USFS trail. The trail is a dif­fi­cult 2.9‑mile hike. The glac­i­er was named for the Civ­il War Gen­er­al Philip Sheri­dan. There is an easy walk­ing trail to a spec­tac­u­lar view of the glacier. 

Look to the south and you’ll see a WWII era build­ing. Troops were sta­tioned at Cordova.

Difficulty: Moderate

This ski trail weaves through muskeg and for­est and grad­u­al­ly gains ele­va­tion until it ends. The trail leads to a high muskeg that over­looks the Cop­per Riv­er Delta, Heney Range and the Gulf of Alas­ka. This trail is very wet dur­ing all sea­sons exclud­ing win­ter and is not a hik­ing trail. 

Difficulty: Moderate

This is an easy .8‑mile board­walk trail with lots of stairs. The board­walk leads to over­look of the Cop­per Riv­er Delta with many signs. Be sure to bring your cam­era, this is a great place to see moose and bear. 

Difficulty: Easy

This trail has impres­sive views of the Chugach Moun­tains. Short spur trails offer access to five small lakes that are excel­lent for cut­throat fishing.

Difficulty: Easy

This is an easy 2.4‑mile hike with excel­lent fish­ing for sock­eye, Dol­ly Var­den and cut­throat. You’ll find access to McKin­ley Trail and McKin­ley Lake pub­lic use cab­ins. It is a well-main­tained trail that has sev­er­al bridges for easy stream cross­ings and inter­pre­tive signs to explain the trail’s history. 

While on the high­way look for the McKin­ley Lake Cab­in sign and trail­head. From the trail­head, a 2 12 mile hike will take you to the For­est Ser­vice pub­lic cab­in. Sock­eye salmon view­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties exist here and at the loca­tion anoth­er 75 yards past the cab­in. Salmon view­ing at this loca­tion is from mid July to mid August with best view­ing in late July or ear­ly August. 

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Look for the chan­nel to a beaver pond. The chan­nel pro­vides access to the pond for sil­ver salmon fry and can sup­port up to 25,400 young salmon. The fall­en trees and brush pro­vide cov­er from preda­tors. Here you will also find access to Sad­dle­bag Glac­i­er USFA Trail, a 3‑mile trail to Sad­dle­bag Lake, this is the best trail for moun­tain bik­ing in the district.

Here is a great view of Cop­per Riv­er. Take the short walk to a mon­u­ment ded­i­cat­ed to the men who built the bridges to the islands that you see here. This mon­u­ment espe­cial­ly ded­i­cat­ed to the crane crew who lost their lives on July 211971.

This is the main flow of Cop­per Riv­er, known for its wild salmon runs; in fact this is one of the most prized stocks of salmon in the world. Watch for har­bor seals as they fol­low the salmon runs up the Cop­per Riv­er as far as Childs Glac­i­er. You’ll see them bob­bing along the riv­er or rest­ing on ice flows. 

This very active glac­i­er forms a wall along the fabled Cop­per Riv­er near a his­toric rail­road route that once ser­viced the world’s largest cop­per mine. NOTE: A bridge at Mile 36 of the Cop­per Riv­er High­way is cur­rent­ly (2020) impass­able, with repairs not expect­ed for sev­er­al years. Child’s Glac­i­er is not cur­rent­ly acces­si­ble by road. Con­tact Cor­do­va Ranger Dis­trict for cur­rent venders pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion options to the far side.  ...more

Con­struc­tion of this ear­ly-1900s bridge cost a whop­ping (at the time) $1.4 mil­lion, which earned it the nick­name Mil­lion Dol­lar Bridge. But the bridge quick­ly earned its keep, allow­ing the rail­road to haul cop­per from Ken­ni­cott to the port of Cordova.