In 1884, Army Captain William Abercrombie surveyed the Copper River delta, which made the area known to a few hardy prospectors. The crazed stampede of 1897–1898 opened up the area to settlement. Still, in 1905, Cordova  was little more than a couple of canneries processing the pinks and silvers from the Sound. Then Michael J. Heney showed up.
After years of surveying rights-of-way, watching railroad ventures to the rich coal and copper mines nearby start and fold, and failing to convince the Morgan-Guggenheim Alaska Syndicate not to start its road from Katalla, Heney invested his entire savings and in 1907 began laying track from Cordova toward Kennecott Mines. After the Katalla facilities were destroyed by a storm, the syndicate bought the Copper River and Northwestern line from Heney and completed it in 1911 at a total cost of $23 million; by 1917 it had hauled over $100 million in ore to Cordova for transshipment to smelters. Cordova was a boomtown until the Kennecott Mines closed in 1938.
The 1964 earthquake caused extensive damage to the town, and uplifted the sea floor six feet. Since then the town’s economy has reverted to fishing and canning. The year-round population doubles in the summer, and in good years there’s plenty of work. The town’s fishing fleet tops 800 vessels at the peak of the sockeye salmon season.
Copper River red and king salmon have attained an almost mythical status. The first major run of Alaska salmon each summer, they’re prized for their rich flavor and deep red color, and always garner a high price. Anchorage  restaurants often compete to get the first shipment of these salmon, and others are shipped by air directly to markets and restaurants throughout the United States. Find out more at www.copperriversalmon.org .