Copper Center, Alaska - Population: 452
Location: Copper Center is located between Mile 100 and 106 of the Old Richardson Highway. This "loop" was created when the Richardson Highway was straightened in 1988. You now have to make a special effort to see this small community, but Copper Center is a classic and well worth the few extra miles. It is 105 miles north of Valdez and 200 miles from Anchorage.
History: Like most of the communities in the Copper River Basin, Copper Center began as a native village with a large population. When the discovery of gold drew thousands to Alaska, Copper Center sprang up as one of the first "tent cities" located in the Copper River Region.
Around 1896, Ringwald Blix built a roadhouse where the Copper Center Lodge is presently standing. Blix was well known throughout Southcentral Alaska. One local newspaper reporter commented, "Ringwald Blix is known as the Poo-Bah of Copper Center, in the Copper River Valley. He's the whole thing in that region. Besides being U.S. Commissioner, he is postmaster, notary public, hotel proprietor, farmer and miner..." Travelers on the Valdez-Fairbanks trail often stated that the roadhouse offered outstanding services in comparison to many others.
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. Another historic building, the Chapel on the Hill, was the first church in the Copper River Region. Vince Joy built it in 1942 with the assistance of the U.S. Army volunteers stationed in the area. Mr. Joy then built other churches and a bible college in the area. The Chapel on the Hill and the Copper Valley Historical Society Museum, located next to the Copper Center Lodge, both have displays that depict much of the history of the valley.
Things To Do: Copper Center offers visitors campgrounds, fishing charters and guides, and museums. The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center is located just outside Copper Center on the Old Richardson Highway.
Accommodations: Copper Center offers visitors campgrounds, fishing charters and guides, cafe, two lodges, liquor stores, bar, convenience store, post office, bed and breakfast, fast food drive in, gas station, museums and veterinary services.