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The Copper River flows for about 290 miles (470 km), draining a watershed of about 24,000 square miles (62,000 sq km) in the Wrangell and Chugach Mountains. The river enters the Gulf of Alaska about 22 miles (35 km) southeast of the commercial fishing village of Cordova, Alaska where it creates a delta nearly 50 miles (80 km) wide.
The name of the river comes from the copper deposits that were mined in the early 20th century. Commercial extraction of the copper was enabled by the construction of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, built between 1908 and 1911 by the Alaska Syndicate. The railway ran 196 miles (315 km) from the Port of Cordova, across the Copper River Delta, to the Kennecott Mines in the Wrangell Mountains. The mines were abandoned in 1938 but the railroad grade is still used as a road bed and many of the bridges still exist, including the Million Dollar Bridge crossing the Copper River at Miles Glacier near the head of the delta.
The wetlands of the Copper River Delta are the largest on the west coast of North America and are globally recognized as a flyway and stopover for millions of migratory birds. The delta supports an important commercial salmon fishery vital to the Cordova economy. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore more of the Copper River Delta.