Current Population: 328 (2010 U.S. Census Population)
Incorporation Type: Unincorporated
Borough Located In: Unorganized
Taxes: No taxing authority
Location and Climate
Copper Center is located between miles 101 and 105 of the Richardson Highway. 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. The community lies at approximately 61.955000° North Latitude and -145.305280° West Longitude. (Sec. 18, T002N, R001E, Copper River Meridian.) Copper Center is located in the Chitina Recording District. Copper Center is located in the continental climate zone. Winters are long and cold, and summers are relatively warm. Temperature extremes have been recorded from a low of -74 to a high of 96 °F. Annual snowfall averages 39 inches, and total precipitation averages 9 inches per year.
History, Culture and Demographics
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 1930s 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.
A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community — the Native Village of Kluti-Kaah (aka Copper Center). Athabascan Indians represent the primary Alaska Native group. There are two distinct settlements, a Native area and a non-Native area.
According to Census 2010, there were 199 housing units in the community and 123 were occupied. Its population was 48.5 percent American Indian or Alaska Native; 45.7 percent white; 0.3 percent Asian; 0.9 percent Pacific Islander; 4.6 percent of the local residents had multi-racial backgrounds. Additionally, 3.1 percent of the population was of Hispanic decent.
Facilities, Utilities, Schools and Health Care
The majority of homes use individual water wells and septic tanks. Others haul treated well water from a site operated by Copper Center Safe Water. A private Glennallen firm delivers water to home storage tanks for a fee. The school operates its own well-water system. 75% of homes are fully plumbed. Refuse collection services are available from Copper Basin Sanitation. There is a local landfill and an incinerator at mile 102 Richardson Highway. Copper Valley Electric purchases power from the state-owned Solomon Gulch Hydro Facility and owns diesel plants in Glennallen and Valdez. Electricity is provided by Copper Valley Electric Assoc. There is one school located in the community, attended by 39 students. Local hospitals or health clinics include Kluti-Kaah Health Clinic and Cooper River Association Behavioral Health. Copper River Native Association (health care transportation cultural activities). Cooper Center is an isolated location it is part of the Southern EMS Region. Emergency Services have highway and air access and are within 30 minutes of a higher-level satellite health care facility. Emergency service is provided by 911 Telephone Service volunteers and a health aide Auxiliary health care is provided by Copper River EMS Council (907-822-3671).
The economy is based on local services and businesses and highway-related tourism. The National Park Service’s Wrangell-St. Elias Visitor Center was completed in 2002. The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge was also completed in 2002. Two RV Parks and three river boat charter services operate from Copper Center. Many Native residents depend on subsistence hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering. In 2010, 11 residents held commercial fishing permits.
The 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) estimated 130 (MOE +/-45)1 residents as employed. The ACS surveys established that average median household income (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars) was $59,286 (MOE +/-$19,578). The per capita income (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars) was $21,010 (MOE +/-$5,747). About 25.4% (MOE +/-14.2%) of all residents had incomes below the poverty level.
1 All ACS statistics are published with their repective margin of error (MOE).
Copper Center lies on the Richardson Highway. A state-owned 2,200′ long by 55′ wide gravel airstrip provides for chartered flights and general aviation.
Organizations with Local Offices
Electric Utility – Copper Valley Electric Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 45
Glennallen, AK 99588-0045
Housing Authority – Copper River Basin Regional Housing Authority
P.O. Box 89
Glennallen, AK 99588
Regional Native Non-Profit Corporation – Copper River Native Association
Mile 104 Old Richardson Highway, P.O. Box H
Copper Center, AK 99573
Village Council – Native Village of Kluti-Kaah
P.O. Box 68
Copper Center, AK 99573-0068
Regional Native Corporation – Ahtna, Incorporated
P.O. Box 649
Glennallen, AK 99588