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Go Alaska Tours | Alaska Travel Guide - Valdez



Valdez "Switzerland of Alaska"
 
After you see the breathtaking mountain scenery and become acquainted with  the friendly people of Valdez, you'll understand why this area has, for decades, been dubbed the "Switzerland of Alaska" and has been a favorite  with visitors. In one survey of visitors homebound from Alaska, this scenic seacoast town rated among the state's top attractions, right along with Mt.  McKinley, and Glacier Bay. Valdez (pronounced "val DEEZ") was the center for the massive oil-spill cleanup after the "Exxon Valdez" disaster in March of 1989. Overnight this tiny serene community was changed into a frenzied center of activity not unlike the turn-of-the-century gold rush camp who started the town.

You can reach Valdez by road, sea or air. Paved highways join Valdez and Fairbanks, 364 miles/586 km away, and Anchorage 305 miles/491 km distant.  Alaska ferryliners connect Valdez directly with Whittier, Cordova. There are scheduled flights between Valdez and Anchorage which are only 120 air miles apart.

History

Miners and supply packers founded the community of Valdez at the turn of the century. In 1899, a pack trail was opened from the town to the gold fields in the upper Yukon basin and became Alaska's first highway, the Richardson.  It had several names as it was known first as the Eagle Trail, and later as Valdez-Fairbanks Wagon Road. Hard-hit by the 1964 earthquake, Valdez was left perched precariously on a ledge shaped perfectly for a future landslide. Rather than abandon their town, Valdez residents elected instead to simply move it - literally - four miles away. They chose a rock-firm area who had been suggested as an alternate location for the town in 1911. Some moved their older homes but most have built modern, contemporary structures.

Things to do

The waterfront in Valdez is set up to accommodate fishermen as well as visitors out for a stroll. The public promenade offers fine views of activity in the Small Boat Harbor.

Take a boat tour to see Columbia Glacier, second largest tidewater glacier in North America, Shoup Glacier and other Prince William Sound attractions.

Interpretive exhibits at the Valdez Historical Museum include the gold rush, the 1964 earthquake, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. A restored 1907 Ahrens steam fire engine, models of antique aircraft, and the original Cape Hinchinbrook lighthouse lens are also on display. Remembering Old Valdez Exhibit has a wonderful 1:20 scale Historic Old Town Model showing Valdez as it appeared in 1963, just prior to the earthquake.

The Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum at Prince William Sound Community College is a huge private collection of animal mounts, Native dolls, an Eskimo kayak, prehistoric artifacts and carved ivory. Well worth a stop.

The Last Frontier Theatre Conference takes place at the Valdez Convention and Civic Center in June. Gold Rush Days, held in August, is an annual celebration that includes a parade, contests, game night and town fish fry.

Sea kayaking is an ideal way to explore Prince William Sound. Sea kayak rentals and outfitters located at the Small Boat Harbor. Guided trips range from an afternoon paddle around Port Valdez to glacier day tours and camping tours: check with us for more information. Take a flightseeing trip and see Columbia Glacier, spectacular Prince William Sound and the surrounding Chugach Mountains from the air.

Visit the Crooked Creek Salmon Spawning Viewing Area offering a close-up look at spawning pink and chum salmon mid-July to early September. Dayville Road is a 5.8-mile paved side road (with bike trail) that leads to shoreside camping, picnicking, fishing and scenic views along Port Valdez, the 13-mile-long estuary at the head of Valdez Arm.

See Waterfalls. From downtown Valdez, drive out the Richardson Highway 17.4 miles to the Keystone Canyon area and see Horsetail Falls. A short distance beyond Horsetail Falls is Bridal Veil Falls. Both are favorite photo stops.
 
 



 
 

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