Born of huge ice fields covering the Alaska Chugach and Wrangell-Saint Elias mountain ranges, the Copper River is Alaska’s fifth largest river and an epic adventure from the mountains to the sea.
The Copper River has an imposing presence like the Grand Canyon in Arizona or the Futaleufu in Chile. It rockets out of the Wrangell Mountains carrying a tremendous volume of silty water at an awesome pace, emptying via the famous Copper River Delta to the Gulf of Alaska near Prince William Sound. The rivers that contribute to the Copper are themselves large and all of them seem eager to get to the sea in a hurry, creating fun, Class II rapids. Daily we will see moving bodies of water collide in awe-inspiring whirlpools, glaciers carving mountains into rubble, and some of the most dramatic landscapes in the state.
We begin rafting near the small historic village of Chitina. Almost immediately we are swept along into the staggeringly beautiful Wood Canyon. We encounter canyons in steep-walled valleys in the upper river, but as the river merges with its tributaries and enlarges, we encounter rows of mountain faces and broad views. We will paddle by the Childs Glacier on the lower river. The Childs calves chunks of blue and white striated ice into the river that float alongside the boats.
As we paddle and camp our way towards Prince William Sound, we can see favorite Alaskan wildlife like moose, black bears, bald eagles, foxes, and brown bears. The Copper has extensive sand bars and we often see animals crossing them. The brown bears are impressively large from feeding on the rich stocks of salmon that climb the river. They have a better time fishing than we will, but it is possible to catch salmon in clearer side streams. We’ll camp on the same sandbars the critters use, where the camping and walking are the best.
Hiking is good along the river and creeks, but to go far afield from the rivers is to learn the meaning of “bushwhack”. You really have to work to hike beyond the river corridor. There are cut banks and bare hillocks we can climb to get a view. There is a region of sand dunes that is always good fun. Imagine running the Copper’s largest rapid, Abercrombie Rapid, with bears on the shore and harbor seals bobbing around you- both looking for a meal of salmon.
The world’s largest avian migration occurs on the Copper River Delta each spring. Though long past at this time of year, the Copper River in summer – even in its upper reaches – provides good birding
For this trip, no paddling experience is required, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of a raft captain. Sometimes the paddling becomes work for all, but we do have the benefit of good current the whole way.
Last updated: March 5, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in Anchorage.
We begin our trip in Anchorage, where we load our gear into the van and drive one of the most scenic roads in Alaska. Our destination is Chitina, a small and historic mining town about a seven hour drive from Anchorage. We spend the rest of the day rigging the rafts on land and learning safety procedures. We will launch the boats, but not paddle far on the first day.
We wake, eat a hearty breakfast, and launch our rafts on the powerful Copper River. We’re on our way! We have about 80 miles to go and five days to get there, We’ll be on the river up to 6 hours a day, stopping several times to stretch, fish, snack, hike and explore. There will almost certainly be a “layover” day to hike and enjoy the mountains and lots of time for exploring and relaxing every day.
We reach our take-out and are shuttled to Cordova, where we spend the rest of the day exploring this quaint fishing village. We will stay in a local hotel (price included) and dine in one of Cordova’s fine restaurants (not included).
Michael listened to our descriptions of what we wanted in a trip and investigated the possibility of making that sort of trip happen. Unlike some other guide services, he was attuned to what we were saying and did not outright say he could not accommodate us because Arctic Wild only provided trips like X, Y, or Z. In my opinion, the major difference between Arctic Wild and the 4 other guide services I talked to was that Michael tried to design a trip meeting our trip objectives and wishes.
Transportation from Anchorage and back, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging other than one night in Cordova, any non-camping meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Alaska. It could and probably will be warm for the most part, but it could also be rainy and cool. Temperatures will range from the 40s to 70s. Near to the glaciers and coast the temperatures will drop and the winds will increase. There may be biting insects but by choosing open, breezy camps we will avoid them for the most part. Bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent just in case.