Those Harbor Lights
Valdez has twice been named an “All-American City.” It has pleasant surroundings, access to mountains and
water, and friendly residents. You’ll find Valdez was made for strolling.
This is an excellent place to stay for several days, walking
about town. You can go fishing, take a glacier cruise, and just relax from your travels.
Cold As Ice
High in Thompson Pass, 29 miles from Valdez, lies one of the most easily accessible glaciers in Alaska. (The other two
are Exit Glacier in Seward, and the Matanuska Glacier on the Glenn Highway.)
Worthington Glacier has been retreating into the mountains over the past
Old postcards of the glacier show the rapid pace.
Like all glaciers, this one has falling rocks and crevasses. Don’t
try to climb it.
At many times, you're following an historic route. The Eagle Trail was built to connect Fort Liscum in Valdez to Fort
Egbert in Eagle. It follows a telegraph line that was maintained along the route, at times running from tree to tree (you can see a telegraph
pole in the historic photo, below).
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline now follows the Richardson along a closely related route.
Gold shipments, frozen eggs, and even an entire riverboat, dragged piece-by-piece, were hauled over Thompson Pass by
the early gold miners with horses in the winter.
Nowadays, the road over the pass to Valdez is wide and safe. The glaciers are still there,
though some are melting at a fast enough clip to be clearly seen by local residents.
Dramatic Entrance to Valdez
The Lowe River has cut a spectacular canyon through the rocks on its way to the ocean at the head of the bay
A series of beautiful waterfalls cascades down the sides of Keystone Canyon into the river. There are several pullouts
where you can take pictures.
(Photo, Robert Gaucher)
In Valdez: Climbing the Waterfalls in Winter
Many tourists stop to take a picture at Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls on their way into
Valdez at Keystone Canyon. In the winter, the frozen falls are scaled by daredevil ice climbers (enlarged right).
Valdez Folks Will Help You Find Your Way
at the visitor center downtown for information on where to go and what
to see. They have guidebooks, maps, lists of places to stay, and where
to eat. You can also get a lot of tips from RV campground visitors and
operators, who can help you book your glacier tours.
is a beautiful destination town on the coast of Prince William Sound.
It has neighborhood schools, a city hall, a hospital, a library, a civic
center, the Pipeline terminal, two museums, a fire department, a community college, swimming pools and parks.
An Ice-Free Port
Valdez is Alaska’s northernmost ice-free port. But, during the last ice age, huge glaciers came down from the
Chugach Range and covered not only the Copper Valley to the north, but all of Prince William
Sound, which is also accessible by Cordova and Whittier/Portage.
When the ice age came to an end,
the glaciers retreated across Prince William Sound into the fjords, where you can view their dynamic cycle today.
Bad Luck on Bligh Reef
William Bligh – who you met in the Marlon Brando film, Mutiny on the
Bounty – wasn’t the luckiest of seafarers. On the Bounty, Bligh was the
villain. But, he was already a ship’s officer in his early twenties,
full of promise when he sailed to Alaska with the great Captain Cook.
Cook explored the Prince William Sound area, which includes Cordova and Whittier, and he named Bligh Reef after his protege.
1989, when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, the
resulting oil spill was, among other things, a tragic reminder of
Captain Bligh’s bad luck.
(Photo, PK & Julia)
Pipeline Terminal at Fort Liscum
You’ll see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline oil terminal across the harbor in Valdez.
1900 to 1923 this was the site of Fort Liscum, and was used to monitor
the gold rush miners. The fort was also a base for construction of the
military road to Interior Alaska.
Goat Trail is High on the Lower River Canyon Walls
The original trail through Keystone Canyon was called the “Goat Trail.” It
is still visible, high on the mountain walls as you enter Valdez through Keystone Canyon beside the Lowe River.
Lt. W.R. Abercrombie explored
this route through Keystone Canyon and Thompson Pass in order to build a safer route into the Copper Valley. He followed old Native trails
through Keystone Canyon.
You can hike the Goat Trail by starting in Keystone Canyon, and following it for around 2 miles. Ask for a map at
the visitor center.
You can also see the old highway tunnel, which has been replaced by bridges.
A second, partially completed tunnel was
the scene of an early 1900’s shoot-out. The shoot-out
occurred when proponents of the Cordova-to-Chitina railroad confronted and stopped a competing effort from Valdez.
Museums In Valdez
Whitney Museum at Prince William Sound Community College (303 Lowe
Street) features Native dolls, beadwork, baskets and prehistoric
artifacts as well as trophy class mounts of Alaska's big game animals.
The Valdez Museum, downtown, has extensive displays
on the region’s
history, including the gold rush, the 1964 Earthquake, and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Watch Salmon Spawn
There’s an underwater video camera at the Crooked Creek U.S. Forest Service information center, as you enter Valdez.
Salmon spawn right in the creek, so you can get a fish-eye view.
• ANNUAL FISH DERBY
All summer long.
• HALIBUT DERBY
Starts in May.
Bike race from Sheep Mountain to Valdez & back.
• SILVER SALMON DERBY
Starts in July.
• GOLD RUSH DAYS
Fun & games.
Fish from the Shore at Allison
When the pinks are running in July, the whole town goes over to Allison Point when the tide is coming
To get to Allison Point, drive out of Valdez about three miles, turn right onto Dayville Road, and drive about 5 miles.
sure if the fishing is hot, count the cars with Alaska plates. Or just look for fish splashing the water.
Pink salmon make for a fine supper. Many
campers smoke them. Pinks are also called “humpbacks.”
Try Fishing at the Dock
If you don’t feel like moving your RV and driving, you can just walk to the city dock.
This dock is not at the
Small Boat Harbor. It’s
near the ferry terminal. Ask a local person for directions.
When the tide is rising and the fish are coming in, you’ll find the fishing
from the dock is just fine.
|To smoke your own salmon,
all you need is a lightweight electric smoker. It comes with wood
chips, and you can use it in your RV park. Many people have foolproof
recipes. Smoking salmon is pretty easy. First you salt or brine the
fish. Then you cure it. Then you dry the salmon to form a skin.
Finally, you smoke it. It makes a great gift to take back home.
at the Canyon
Dueling businessmen, feuding over railroads, shot it out in a Keystone Canyon tunnel.
Traveling Around Valdez
In 1900, Natives from the nearby village of Tatitlek were photographed in Valdez Harbor by P.S. Hunt, paddling their
In 1905, Ford Motor Company sent a touring car to Valdez on the SS Bertha, and P.S. Hunt took a photo of that, too.
(Photos, Dorothy Clifton
Collection & Anchorage
Museum of History & Art)
Gold Rush Cemetery
This gold rush cemetery was used in Valdez between 1898 and 1917. It’s 1.5 miles out of town, down a gravel
and dirt road. There are picnic tables and a great view of the bay.
Spirit of Valdez
Owen Meals (as in Meals Avenue) an energetic citizen of Valdez, flew the “Spirit of Valdez” in 1927.
(Photo, Dorothy Clifton Collection)
Salmon: Telling them Apart
– The pink salmon is also called a humpback or “humpy” because of the
shape of the male’s back. They’re found in abundance in Valdez from
mid-June to late July, and are an easy catch from the dock and at
Allison Point, near the hatchery. Alaskans think of them as a “small”
fish. But they weigh 3 to 4 pounds, and are a couple of feet long. In
salt water, the pink is bright, steely blue on top and silvery on the
sides, with large black spots. As they near shore, where you’ll catch
them, the males get dark on top with a white belly, and the females
become green with a white belly. And they develop the hump and hooked
jaws. When cooked, they’re pinkish.
Silver Salmon – The silver salmon is often called a “coho.” They live in both salt and fresh water, so you might find yourself
catching one in a small lake in the Copper Valley,
as well as in Valdez Bay. The ones you’ll find in Valdez are pretty
big. They’re at least 8 to 10 pounds apiece, and 24 to 30 inches long.
But every year, some really big ones are caught, weighing close to 20
pounds or more. In salt water, they’re bright silver with small black
spots on their back. They have a delicious white flesh.
This Is A Pixie
Use it for catching salmon from the shore. The color doesn’t really matter, but the size does. You can cast a
heavier lure farther.
Use smaller sizes for pinks, and larger sizes for silvers.
Ask at your RV park or a local tackle shop. Or go over to
the dock to see what other people are using.
If you’re on a charter boat, the captain will provide your gear.
Watching the Tide Roll In
If you’re ocean fishing or boating in Valdez – or
any other port town in Alaska – it’s very
important that you know what the tides are doing.
The difference between high tide and low tide in Alaska is great. This is why the Small
Boat Harbor has such long ramps, and the docks are allowed to float up and down.
There are two high and two low tides every day, so you can
see the dramatic changes yourself.
If you’re boating, you’ve got to be aware of tides when you anchor your boat, or pull it up
to shore, because you can either find your boat stranded, or floating away.
people say that fishing is better when there is a big tide, but whether
or not this is true, it is certainly true that when you are fishing
from the shore on an incoming tide in Valdez you’ll have much better
luck. So you should plan your fishing expedition so you’re fishing a
couple of hours before high tide.
are available around town.
Can you tell the difference between a raspberry and a salmonberry? In Interior Alaska,
raspberries are tiny, low plants growing along arid roadsides.
Salmonberries are large, delicious berries that grow in wet coastal
regions, and look like enormous raspberries. Their fruit is red or
When you’re fishing in small lakes or streams, for grayling or dolly varden, clip the barb off your hook so you can easily
release a small fish without hurting it.
A lot of visitors have eaten halibut, but if you’ve never caught one, you’re in for an adventure. These
funny-looking fish are caught from charter boats that take you out into Prince William Sound. Halibut are white on one side (the bottom)
and olive to dark brown on the other. When they’re about an inch long, they have an eye on each side of the head.
Then the left eye
moves around to the right side of the fish.
So the halibut winds up with both eyes on the pigmented side, which faces up. This way they
blend in with the ocean bottom.
Halibut are the largest flat fish, and they can grow to over 400 pounds. Because they get so big, your
charter operator will give you heavy duty tackle, and at least 60 lb. line.
Halibut are commonly fished with octopus or herring as bait.
Halibut fishing starts in mid-May and Prince William Sound is a good place to catch them because the waters are more sheltered than the
Gulf of Alaska.
How Big Are Halibut?
You often see pictures of people with a monster 300-lb. halibut, but you’re more likely to catch a smaller one – and
find they make great eating.
A 35 to 40 inch halibut will weigh about 30 lbs., and will be around 10 years old. A 100 lb. halibut is about
5 feet long.
If you catch a halibut you don’t want to keep, you can release it, if you handle it carefully, because halibut don’t
have a swim bladder, so changes in water pressure don’t kill them.
Friends Don't Let Friends Fish
Without A Derby Ticket
Valdez hosts a popular fish derby every summer. The derby rules, standings, and
prizes are posted near the waterfront downtown, and there are derby weigh stations in Valdez.
There is a halibut derby and a silver salmon
derby, with over $80,000 in cash and prizes.
to buy your ticket before you go fishing – and check out the rules.
This is one of the state’s most popular fish derbies.
+ Activities + Things to Get
+ Where to Stay + Where to Eat
SPONSOR OF BEARFOOT'S NATIVE ART SECTION
VALDEZ, ALASKA MAPS AND FEATURES
+ Map: Downtown Valdez
+ Map: Richardson Hwy
+ Map: Prince William Sound
+ Map: Valdez-Fairbanks Trail
+ Gold Rush History
+ Alaska Marine Life
RELATED MAPS AND FEATURES
+ Map: Copper River and Tributaries
+ Campground Map for Eastern Alaska
Valdez, Don't Miss...
• Valdez Visitor Center
• Small boat harbor
• Glacier cruises
Bearfooting in Valdez
• VISITOR CENTER
Downtown. Sign up for the fish derby here and learn about Valdez.
• TWO MUSEUMS
Downtown & at Prince William Sound Community College.
Half day to several days on Prince William Sound
• WALKING TOURS
Self-guided tour of historical homes. Ask at the visitor center.
Ask the visitor center for maps of several good hikes and walks.
• THEATER CONFERENCE
Ask at Prince William Sound Community College.
• GOLD RUSH DAYS
Parade, can-can dancing, fish fry. August.
• 4TH OF JULY
All the big events.
There’s a fleet of boats to take you salmon and halibut fishing, or sightseeing.
• FLIGHTSEEING & TOURS
View glaciers & Prince William Sound from the air. You can be dropped off at a cabin, or go fishing.
There are also historic and cultural tours.
• BOAT RENTALS
For those experienced in boating.
• SALMON VIEWING
Easily viewed from Crooked Creek on the way into town, or Solomon Gulch.
From the shore, or on a charter. Buy a little smoker and smoke your catch.
• FISH DERBY
Buy a ticket BEFORE you go fishing. Lots of prizes.
• REST FOR AWHILE
Valdez is a good place to take a break from your travels.
What's Going On In Valdez?
Pop: just over 4,000
115 miles from Glennallen
Long-term RV’ers love this town. Beautiful harbor, nearby mountains, lush foliage, tranquil bay, easy fishing.
Lot of places to go, things
to do, people to meet.
Heading to Valdez: THOMPSON PASS
Pass is 26 miles from Valdez
foot high pass through the Chugach Mountains. Heaviest snowfall in
Alaska. Record snowfall was over 5 feet in 24 hours. You’ll see
snow-cannon mountings (for shooting down avalanches) and tall road
markers to keep travelers on the road during whiteout conditions in
THE GOAT TRAIL
Follow this at Keystone Canyon from the sign at Bridal Veil Falls.
TOWN BIKE TRAIL Easy walking. Extends along the Richardson Highway out of town past the tidal marshes.
TRAILS Go to the Valdez Convention & Visitor Bureau visitor center in Valdez, or valdezalaska.org,
and pick up maps of the following trails:
•The Dock Point Trail (a 1-mile loop) •Trail to Mineral Creek Canyon (2 miles) • First section of Shoup Glacier Trail
(6.5 miles round-trip)
FISH CUTTING 101
GOLD RUSH HISTORY: Making It Big In Valdez
were two ways to make money in the Gold Rush. One was to dig gold out
of the ground, and the other was to sell provisions to miners.
That’s how Valdez made its fortune. It all started with the rush into the Copper Valley
in 1898. As it turned out, very little gold was found and most of the
miners returned empty handed in October, abandoning the provisions they
had worked so hard to carry over the mountains.
The only men to make money were those who had stayed behind in Valdez.
The pciture in this section shows a line of miners headed back to Valdez packing only what they can carry on
(Photo, N. Benedict, Alaska State Library, PCA 201-132)
COLUMBIA GLACIER 101
Columbia Glacier, near
Valdez in Prince
is simultaneously “calving” (dropping icebergs in the ocean) at a rapid
clip – and retreating even faster than it appears to be coming forward.
Columbia Glacier started its dramatic backtracking (up to 100 feet per
day) in 1984.
Valdez Convention & Visitors Bureau
Information for visitors: Valdez events, points of interest, maps and
visitor services. One of the best sites of its kind in the United
City of Valdez
Municipal Website: Harbor, Library, Port, Parks & Recreation, Engineering, Finance, and more.
Valdez history, with information on the Gold Rush, the old town of Valdez (destroyed in the Good Friday earthquake of 1964),
oil spill facts, and more.
Oil Spill Trustee Council
Covers the impact of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill; injury and recovery
rates of fish, wildlife, and people of the spill region; and the
effectiveness of restoration efforts.
Oil Spill Assessment and Restoration
The National Marine Fisheries Service manages research and monitoring
projects for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.
Valdez Ice Climbing Festival
Events information, results, and slide show for this annual event (held in March).
Valdez Fish Derbies
Fish to win. All summer, every year, with big prizes.