Valdez is a port that connects to the Prince William Sound. This once claimed gold rush town now centers around the oil industry, fishing, mining, and tourism. Valdez is the northernmost port that is open year round. Positioned on the head of a fjord, this ocean side city sits perfectly between the majestic Chugach Mountain range and the coastal shores of the Prince William Sound.
The Copper River Natives, also known as the Athna, would travel to the port for hunting and fishing (Native Cultures) before the exploration and declaration of the Port of Valdez by Spanish settlers in 1790. Many years later in 1890, after Skagway was a boom town, amidst the Klondike Goldrush, a false claim was made about the port area. Prospectors claimed gold in the area when there was none. This was to steer prospectors off the course to Skagway. In 1899, a road was constructed to connect Valdez and Fairbanks, thus creating a proper residency in the city.
In 1964, the Good Friday Earthquake struck the southern coast of Alaska. This created a 30 foot tall tidal wave that struck the city, devastating the coast and taking 32 lives. The next few years were dedicated to the rebuild of the port, 4 miles away from it’s original site.
After 30 years since the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, one of the worst oil spills in the world (History), the coastal ecosystem that was once devastated is now showing signs of stability. The year round residency remains low in the city while tourism has seen a consistent rise over the years. The oil industry still operates and docks in Valdez for shipment and transportation. Various fisheries and hatcheries operate on the shores as well.
What to Do, Where to Go
From this port you can hop onto commercial fishing tours, charter your own boat, or maybe catch a cruise boat to see the tidal glaciers. All of these options will take you through displays of the coastal ecosystem and the wildlife that takes refuge there. This coastline is great for spotting marine life at play.
Valdez supplies museums and tours through the local hatcheries. The Keystone Canyon here is highly glaciated and provides stunning views right by the roadway. And, local trails and parks supply views of towering waterfalls and close ups of nearby alpine and valley glaciers. Many tours operate from the shores and nearby river outfitters provide whitewater rafting opportunities.
From faux gold rush genesis to a thriving port, this city has many layers of adventure and history to explore. It is a great connector between destinations and supplies a variety of activities for those who visit. This is a taste of Alaska’s coastal life.