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The Valdez Destination covers a portion of the southern region of Alaska. Characterized by defining land features, the Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve occupies the destination’s northern area, while Prince William Sound makes up much of the south. As the Valdez Destination is reportedly home to an abundance of wildlife, many of the activities that tourists can participate in involve the animals in the area, such as whale watching, fishing, and wildlife viewing, for example. The Prince William Sound and Valdez are presumably a couple of the best places in the Valdez Destination to go whale watching. Other draws for tourists include outdoor winter activities such as snowboarding, skiing, or snowshoeing. Those who come to the area can also visit some of the museums that Valdez has to offer, namely the Valdez Museum of Egan Drive or the Valdez Museum on Hazelet, where visitors can learn more about notable events that took place in the community’s history. One of the more commonly known historical events that occurred in the Valdez region is the earthquake of 1964, the second largest recorded earthquake in the world.
Located in the southern region of Alaska, the Valdez Destination is situated along the shore of the Prince William Sound. Valdez, the namesake of the destination, has a population of about 3,927 residents as of 2020. The population has decreased by 1.48% since the most recent census in 2010 when the population was at 3,986. Currently, the growth rate is about 0.61%. The city of Valdez was named after a Spanish Navy Minister known as Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán, in the year 1790.
Valdez has several winter attractions available to tourists during their visit, namely fishing, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, whale watching, and seeing the northern lights. Each spring, humpback whales return from places that have warmer water such as Hawaii or Mexico, giving tourists the opportunity to view these aquatic animals. A couple of the most popular places to engage in whale watching are reportedly the Valdez and Prince William Sound. Though it should be noted that there is a chance that visitors might see the whales from the shore near Port Valdez on either side of the bay, as the whales often come to feed in this area. For fishermen who visit the Valdez Destination, several fishing charters are available such as Copper River Guides LLC, Halibut Grove Charters & Tours, Valdez Outfitters, AK eXpeditions, and Valdez Saltwater Adventures, to name a few. Some potential catches include different types of salmon, rockfish, halibut, and lingcod.
Glaciers are said to be one of the biggest draws for tourism and some of the most unique features of the Valdez Destination. Five of the most commonly visited glaciers are Worthington Glacier, Valdez Glacier, Columbia Glacier, Shoup Glacier, and Meares Glacier. The Shoup Glacier, in particular, can be accessed by hiking nearly 6.5 miles along the Shoup Bay Trail to the shore of the glacier. Visitors are also given the option to access it by kayaking or by boat taxis. Tours of each of the previously listed glaciers are offered by Valdez tour operators in the area.
The area at which the Valdez Destination is located is most commonly known for its unique topography, characterized by snowy mountain ranges in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Located in the western region of the destination, a division of the Chugach National Forest occupies an expanse of land containing Mt. Witherspoon and Mt. Einstein. A considerable portion of the destination is also encompassed by Prince William Sound to the south. Other aquatic land features, namely rivers and lakes, that extend from the Gulf of Alaska can also be found throughout the destination’s landscape, many of which may not be known by a particular name. Some of the identified lakes include Robe Lake, Berg Lake, Bering Lake, Starodubtsov Lake, Lake Roselius, Lake Ivanov, Martin Lake, and Van Cleve Lake. Among these natural characteristics, very few urban areas are located in the Valdez Destination; however, a few of the cities that can be found, which are relatively small in size, are Chitina, Cordova, Chenega, Tatitlek, and, of course, Valdez, the namesake of the destination.
Summers in Valdez are typically cool and wet with overcast skies, similar yet milder to the winter season, which is snowy, windy, and mostly cloudy. Throughout the course of the year, temperatures range between 20 and 63 degrees Fahrenheit, rarely reaching above 71 degrees or dropping below 3 degrees. From late June to late July, it is considered the best time of year to visit Valdez for warm-weather activities, based on the tourism score that was influenced by previous visitors. September tends to receive the most amount of rain in comparison to the other months. During July, presumably the hottest month of the year, the average high is 62 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average low of 49 degrees. As for the coldest month, January, the average high is around 28 degrees, with a low of 20 degrees.
Valdez is home to an abundance of wildlife, including several mammal species, bird species, and marine life. Both black bears and brown bears can be viewed in several areas, though visitors must be cautious when doing so. Robe Lake and Thompson Pass are inhabited by moose, and they can often be found in the surrounding communities of the Copper River Valley as well. The hiking trails that wind through Valdez also allow visitors to see many bird species, including bald eagles, blue herons, Canada geese, arctic terns, trumpeter swans, tufted puffins, and magpies, among others. Local wildlife tours can take tourists around Prince William Sound to see puffins and kittiwakes. Prince William Sound additionally serves as a home to humpback whales, orcas, otters, and sea lions.
One of the most notable moments that occurred in Valdez's history is what is known as the 1964 earthquake, or the ‘Good Friday earthquake.’ An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 shook the Prince William Sound region of Alaska on March 27, 1964. This earthquake lasted for four minutes, and it was recorded as the second largest earthquake in the world. Within the first day after the occurrence, there were 11 aftershocks, many of which had magnitudes greater than 6.0. After the passing of three weeks, there had been nearly 9 more aftershocks. Over the course of the year, there were several small aftershocks. The damage that was caused by the earthquake affected 130,000 square kilometers, and major cities of Alaska had structural damage. Due to the population’s low density, the number of deaths was relatively low considering the magnitude of this earthquake; however, 131 people were killed. This earthquake led to a tsunami that was 30 feet high, traveling towards Valdez Bay. On the city’s main freight dock, there were 32 people to assist with or watch the unloading of a supply ship called the SS Chena that frequented Valdez. All 32 individuals that aided in the process were killed; however, no other townspeople died.
After the earthquake, in the 1970s, the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline terminal was constructed, among other cargo transportation facilities, and began to rapidly develop Valdez. In March of 1989, the city was the hub for the clean-up of the massive oil spill after the Exxon Valdez incident. This oil spill was a manmade disaster at the time that Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker of the Exxon Shipping Company, spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound region, covering 1,300 miles of coastline. A considerable amount of marine life such as otters, whales, seals, and seabirds were killed. This occurrence had been known as the worst oil spill in America’s history up until 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon Spill happened. After this incident, federal responders, Exxon employees, and over 11,000 Alaskan residents worked together to clean up the oil.
For those who take an interest in learning more about Valdez’s early history, the Valdez Museum on Egan Drive is a place that tourists can visit to do so. Located in the heart of downtown Valdez, the museum displays exhibits that encompass various topics of the community’s history, including stories of early exploration, the Gold Rush, Native culture, the founding of Valdez, the Trans Alaska Pipeline history, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and, finally, the history of Alaska Bush Pilots. Beyond these subjects, the museum also showcases local artists’ work that expresses the culture and history of the Valdez region. This artwork can be found in the Egan Commons of the attraction. The Valdez Museum on Hazelet is another museum that tourists can visit. It is situated near the ferry dock on the edge of downtown Valdez. One of the most prominent exhibits that is featured at the museum is the Remembering Old Valdez Exhibit, a model of the Old Town Valdez’s visual appearance before the Good Friday earthquake in 1964.
The Blackburn Cabins was established in 2015 by the current owner of the lodge, Mark. Livvi, Mark's wife, is also one of the owners and was brought on by Mark. She helped complete the finishing touches of the cabins and then began managing them. The property is located between the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark and a town called McCarthy in southeastern Alaska. Blackburn Cabins, though close to both of these locations, is surrounded by trees and woodland landscapes. It is also close to Root Glacier, which is a nearby glacier that has a trail up to it. Hiking the trail is recommended by the owners as a "great activity."...Read More