Alaska Rivers: Copper River

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

Alaska’s Copper River has been navigated for trade and used for subsistence proposes since before the advent of recorded history. The river currently provides a rich Sockeye Salmon resource for commercial, personal use and subsistence fishermen. It is popular with paddle sports enthusiasts, offering many kayak and rafting adventures.

Headwaters of the Copper River begin at the foot of Copper Glacier on the northern side of Mount Wrangell. From the glacier, the river flows some 287 miles to tidewater near Cordova and the Gulf of Alaska. The river runs through some the most rugged parts of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the Chugach and Wrangell mountains. The mighty Copper River is one of the swiftest and most rugged rivers in Alaska. Twisting and cutting deeply through the Wrangell and Chugach mountains, it's 300 mile stretch of pristine glacier-fed waters are riddled by hundreds of rapids.

The name of the river comes for the abundant copper deposits along the upper river that were used by Alaska Native population and then later by settlers from the Russian Empire and the United States. Extraction of the copper resources was rendered difficult by navigation difficulties at the river's mouth.

The construction of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway from Cordova through the upper river valley in 1908-1911 allowed widespread extraction of the mineral resources, in particular from the Kennecott Mine, discovered in 1898. The mine was abandoned in 1938 and is now a ghost town tourist attraction. A road runs from Cordova to the lower Copper River near Child's Glacier, following the old railroad route and ending at the reconstructed "Million Dollar Bridge" across the river. The Tok Cut-Off follows the Copper River Valley on the north side of the Chugach Mountains.

The cold rushing waters of the Alaskan River's produce some of the richest, most naturally succulent salmon in the world. Wild Chinook (Chinook (King)), Sockeye (Sockeye) and Coho (Silver) salmon - with their rich color, firm texture, and wonderful flavor are renowned through out the world. The rushing waters of the Copper River empty steeply from the mountains above while breakers pound in from the ocean. Unpredictable weather and extreme tides make fishing the "Flats" of the Copper River a dangerous endeavor. However, the prized catch has come to be world-renowned.

The Copper river's famous salmon runs arise from the use of the river watershed by over 2 million salmon each year for spawning. The extensive runs result in many unique varieties. The river's commercial salmon season is short: chinook (king) salmon are available mid-May to mid-June, sockeye (red) salmon mid-May to mid-August, and coho (silver) salmon mid-August to late-September. Sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries are open for salmon from mid-May through October. The fisheries are co-managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the USDA Forest Service Federal Subsistence Board. Management data are obtained primarily by ADF&G at the Miles Lake Sonar Station and the Native Village of Eyak at the Baird Canyon/ Canyon Creek research stations.

Northwest seafood lovers have turned the mid-May to mid-June Copper River salmon season into an annual celebration. Seattle restaurateurs and markets compete to be the first to get an ice-packed shipment of the fresh salmon. Area newspapers fill with advertisements announcing availability at fine dining establishments. Local residents pay top dollar for chef-prepared creations that feature the Copper River delicacy.

The Copper River Watershed Project (CRWP) was created to benefit communities along the Copper River, in the upper basin and delta of the Copper River. The Board of Directors and the Staff of the CRWP are inspired by a vision of helping diversify the economy of this unique region while sustaining its natural resources and cultural heritage.


the copper river in Alaska

Alaskas copper river

Alaska Rivers:

Alaska has more than 12,000 rivers including the nine major rivers listed below:

Learn more about Alaskan rivers

Colville River Copper River Gulkana River
Kuskokwim River Noatak River Porcupine River
Susitna River Tanana River Yukon River.