The History of Copper Center

Copper Center is located along the Richardson Highway between Miles 100 and 105. It is on the west bank of the Copper River at the confluence of the Klutina River. It lies just west of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It lies at approximately 61 59' N Latitude, 145 21' W Longitude (Sec. 18, T002N, R001E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Chitina Recording District. The area encompasses 21 sq. miles of land and 0 sq. miles of water.

The Ahtna people have occupied the Copper River basin for the past 5,000 to 7,000 years. They had summer fish camps at every bend in the river and winter villages throughout the region. Copper Center was a large Ahtna Athabascan village at one time. In 1896, Ringwald Blix built Blix Roadhouse, which was very highly regarded for its outstanding services. The Trail of '98 from Valdez joined with the Eagle Trail to Forty Mile and Dawson. 300 destitute miners spent the winter here, and many died of scurvy. Copper Center became the principal supply center for miners in the Nelchina-Susitna region. A telegraph station and post office were established in 1901. A school was constructed in 1905, which brought a number of Native families to Copper Center. In 1909, it was designated a government agricultural experiment station. In 1932, the original roadhouse was destroyed in order to build the Copper Center Lodge. This lodge is on the National Register of Historic Roadhouses and is now considered the jewel of Alaskan roadhouses. In the late 30s and early 40s, construction of the Richardson and Glenn Highways made the region more accessible. The first church in the Copper River region, the Chapel on the Hill, was built here in 1942 by Vince Joy and U.S. Army volunteers stationed in the area. Mr. Joy built other churches and a bible college in the area over the years.


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History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development