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Along the Road

Keep your eyes scanning the wetlands and mountains around you as you drive out the road. The wildlife you may see along the way includes black and brown bears, wolves, coyote, moose, and mountain goats. The entire world population of dusky Canada geese nests on the delta, and you're likely to see eagles and trumpeter swans without really looking. The ranger station provides a wildlife-viewing guide, and there are several places to stop along the way designed for bird-watching. The first is a platform with interpretive signs as you leave town, an introduction to the delta; this stretch of the road is fine for bird-watching.

Don't skip the Alaganik Slough Boardwalk. Take the 3 1/4-mile spur road to the right 17 miles out the Copper River Highway; it's marked. The sky here is big and certain, while the land is ambivalent -- it doesn't know if it wants to be waving grass of green and gold or shallow, shimmering ponds and tendrils of water. The road leads to the start of the 1,000-foot boardwalk with a blind and to a riverside path. Water reflects the sun and the colors of the marsh. We were speechless one evening at sunset, even in the complete absence of birds. Often in the summer, you can see breeding trumpeter swans, ducks, and grebes, and in the spring and fall, migrating waterfowl and shorebirds make appearances. The path is on the left just before you arrive at the boardwalk and picnic area; the 1-mile Fisherman's Trail is a meandering route among water and brush.

You can stop at any of the bridges crossing the Copper River for a romp in the sand. The river beaches of fine sand extend practically forever.

The highway ends with the area's best attraction, the advancing Childs Glacier. This is the most amazing glacier I've ever seen, and no one seems to know about it outside Cordova. The advancing wall of ice, 300 feet tall, comes right down to the quarter-mile-wide river, battling the flowing water for control of the land here. The glacier tries to divert the river, while the river tries to cut the glacier like a knife, eroding the base and bringing down huge ice chunks. As you sit on the opposite bank, the glacier on the opposite side is too large to see -- it completely fills your field of vision, creating an eerie and hypnotic sense of scale. On a warm summer day, you can feel the glacier's thunder as the ice shifts and see pieces fall off. A chunk the size of a car barely registers, but when an office building-size hunk falls, there's a roar and gray breakers radiate out across the river. Falling glacier pieces have made waves large enough to uproot trees here, not to mention hurl a few fish around -- at the Forest Service viewing and picnic area across the river, salmon have been found high up in the trees and boulders in odd places. Several years ago, such a wave injured some visitors, and now the Forest Service warns that anyone who can't run fast should stay in the observation tower. A path leads less than a mile to the Million Dollar Bridge, or drive by on your way out.

The Forest Service maintains a camping and picnic area at the glacier, with RV and tent sites, restrooms, and sheltered tables. RV sites are $25, walk-in tent sites $10, at a self-pay station. Three hand-pump wells produce drinking water.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.