Copper River Highway
The Copper River Highway remains closed indefinitely at Mile 36 due to safety concerns at Bridge No. 339. This closure will remain in effect until the bridge is replaced, which is estimated to be several years away. DOT&PF closed Bridge No. 339 in August of 2011. The bridge is one of 11 bridges crossing the Copper River Delta. Naturally occurring changes to the water flow between channels across the delta led to a dramatic increase in the amount of water running under the bridge. Due to the increased amount of water, 50 feet of "scour," or erosion, was observed at the bridge in 2011. The scour lowered the channel bottom and compromised the bridge structure. [See Mile 36 entry for more details.].
The Copper River Highway begins where the Ferry Terminal road intersects with Orca Road and leads 48.6 miles northeast from Cordova across Million Dollar Bridge at the Copper River. This is a good gravel road with several U.S. Forest Service hiking trails and interpretive stops. Stop at the USFS office in Cordova for current road/trail conditions. The highway is not maintained in winter beyond Mile 12.4. Snow may prevent access to many points along the highway well into spring. The Copper River Highway was designated a Scenic Byway in May 2011.
The MILEPOST® Quick Reference Log
Miles from Cordova (C) shown.
- C 0 Cordova.
- C 1.3 Whitshed Road to Odiak municipal camper park (24 sites, tent area) at Mile 0.5; Heney Ridge USFS Trail (3.5 miles long) at Mile 5.1; and Hartney Bay, a popular birdwatching spot for the spring shore bird migration. at Mile 5.6 (road end).
- C 5.6 Bridge over Eyak River; access to Eyak River USFS Trail (2.2 miles long). Watch for trumpeter swans.
- C 5.9 Eyak River USFS Boating Site.
- C 10.7 Large paved turnout; covered pavilion with interpretive plaques about Copper River Delta/Chugach National Forest areas.
- C 12 Cordova (Merle K. “Mudhole” Smith) Airport to south. Lake Elsner USFS Trailhead 2.5 miles north.
- C 13.6 Access road leads 4 miles to the terminus of Sheridan Glacier and trailhead for Sheridan Mountain USFS Trail (2.9 miles long; difficult).
- C 16.8 Turnoff for road to Alaganik Slough Chugach National Forest Recreation Area; picnic tables, firepits, wheelchair-accessible toilets, information kiosk and boat launch. Interpretive boardwalk passes a viewing blind for watching birds and wildlife and ends at a viewing platform. Trumpeter swans, one of the largest of all North American waterfowl (6- to 8-foot wingspan), may be seen in ponds.
- C 19.1 Haystack USFS Trail and trailhead parking to south. Easy 0.8-mile boardwalk trail (lots of stairs) leads to delta overlook with interpretive signs.
- C 21.3 Pipeline Lakes USFS Trail (1.8 miles long) to north, trailhead parking to south.
- C 21.5 McKinley Lake USFS Trail to north; easy 2.2-mile hike.
- C 22.1 Alaganik Slough; boat ramp, picnic tables, firepits, toilets, covered tables, wildflowers, interpretive signs.
- C 24.8 Side road leads 1 mile north to Saddlebag Glacier USFS Trailhead parking; easy 3-mile trail to lake, best trail for mountain biking.
- C 36 Highway closed at Bridge No. 339. This bridge was constructed in 1977. Based on channel configurations at that time, bridge designers estimated that water under the bridge would flow at 18,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). During the summer of 2011, USGS hydrologists measured water flows exceeding 85,000 cfs. A permanent replacement bridge is in the initial stages of funding, with construction estimated to begin as early as 2015. Private businesses provide access past Bridge No. 339. For more information, contact Cordova Chamber of Commerce at 907/424-7260.
- C 48.3 U.S. Forest Service Childs Glacier Recreation Area; viewpoint, picnic area, campground.
- C 48.6 The Million Dollar Bridge. Constructed from 1909 to 1910 for $1.4 million, the 1,550-foot-long steel truss bridge spans the Copper River. The north span of the bridge collapsed during the 1964 earthquake. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, and was officially reopened to vehicle traffic in 2005.
Beyond the bridge you may drive 2.4 miles further till there is a sharp drop where most vehicles turn around. Only ORV and possibly extremely high wheel-base 4-wheel drives may be able to go further.