Alaska Day 14 - Relaxed activities around Copper Center

Wrangell - St. Elias NP Visitors Center - AK Travel Blog

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Copper Center Roadhouse, Copper Center (Photo: Stephan van Gessel)

With the arrival in Copper Center we had also arrived at our third National Park in Alaska: Wrangell - St. Elias (WSE). WSE is the largest National Park of the US. And it is really huge indeed! Six times the size of Yellowstone NP! Bigger than 9 US states. Netherlands would fit almost 1.5 times in WSE! If we look at the Preserved area with an international perspective it is even bigger. WSE borders the Canadian Kluane National Park and Reserve, which is about half the size of WSE. WSE is all about big: it encompasses the second largest mountain in the US (Mt. St. Elias) and nine of the 16 largest peaks in the US.

We clearly had, once again, underestimated the size of Alaska.

The athabascan Fish Trap at the WSE NP visitor center (Photo: Stephan van Gessel)
We had in mind to drive up to the north west point of WSE and drive the 42 mile long Nabesna Road, an old miners road that should be full of wildlife. From the lodge to the start of the road was a 140-km (89-mile) drive one way. And the progress on the dirt road was expected to be low. This added to the fact that we just made along car tour and that we were quite tired made us make the wise decision to skip this excursion. 

Instead we did just five things: briefly visit the village of Copper Center, visit the WSE visitor center, drove to Glenallen to fill the gas tank for our next trip, hiked a small trail at the lodge grounds, and went to the lodge to have dinner and sit in the lounge.

Copper Center came into existence in 1898 as the site for a "roadhouse".

The phenomenon of the 'moving mountains' explained
This roadhouse initially only was a tent but over years it grew from a cabin to a real log roadhouse. Although burnt down and was subsequently replaced in 1932, it still exists in an extended version, still privately owned. Unfortunately, this, and a nice old garage, were the only highlights we encountered in the village. It was clearly end of season.

The WSE NP main visitor center (one of the 5 in the park) offered more. Apart from the regular, and as always, perfectly organized NPS center there was also a neighboring Athabascan visitor center. An enthusiastic Athabascan lady explained us in detail how fish wheels, (floating devices that, water powered, scoop salmon from the river), worked. The Athabascan people get a license for a specific quota of fish, just enough to support their families.

At the fish preparation site along Klutina River (Photo: Stephan van Gessel)
This video on YouTube shows a fish wheel catching loads of salmon.

Glenallen is not a very inspiring village. The gas tank of the car, however, got a lot of inspiration. While driving here we could clearly see why the mountains of WSE are called the moving mountains. The Richardson Highway curves around the 4 main mountains of the Copper region, constantly changing the perspective, falsely giving the traveller the idea that the mountains move and grow/shrink.

The shortest day hike ever was made on the lodge's grounds. An astonishing number of 3 kilometers (<2 miles) was hiked, but still with a height difference of almost 100 meters (330 ft) which was descended and later on climbed. The hike took us to the banks of the Klutina River where we discovered a fish preparing site.

The lobby of the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge

The lounge time in the lodge's lobby was really enjoyed. We sat in the luxurious chairs in the comfortable heat of the fire place, a Brahms symphony on the background, drinking a cool soda and enjoying the magnificent views on the WSE mountains. Finally vacation!

Due to some strange behavior of my camera none of the pictures I took today were registered on my memory card. Stephan was so kind to provide me with some images. So, I still write my standard finishing line: More pictures below! Deze fake-tekst heb ik toegevoegd om net iets meer regels te genereren zodat deze rare website toestaat dat de bijgesloten foto ook vertoond wordt. Deze fake-tekst heb ik toegevoegd om net iets meer regels te genereren zodat deze rare website toestaat dat de bijgesloten foto ook vertoond wordt.

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Copper Center Roadhouse, Copper Ce…
Copper Center Roadhouse, Copper C…
The athabascan Fish Trap at the WS…
The athabascan Fish Trap at the W…
The phenomenon of the moving moun…
The phenomenon of the 'moving mou…
At the fish preparation site along…
At the fish preparation site alon…
The lobby of the Copper River Prin…
The lobby of the Copper River Pri…
Garage, Copper Center (Photo: Step…
Garage, Copper Center (Photo: Ste…
Some old stuf next to Copper Cente…
Some old stuf next to Copper Cent…
A really old Coca-Cola can at Copp…
A really old Coca-Cola can at Cop…
Glenallen (Photo: Stephan van Gess…
Glenallen (Photo: Stephan van Ges…
Mount Drum looks completely differ…
Mount Drum looks completely diffe…
View on the Klutina River, the des…
View on the Klutina River, the de…
The south wing of the Copper River…
The south wing of the Copper Rive…
Wrangell - St. Elias NP Visitors Center - AK
photo by: mdalamers