Alaska’s Little Switzerland – Destroyed by the 1964 Earthquake – Terminus of the Alaska Pipeline – Site of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill – The Pearl of Prince William Sound.
No matter how you think of it, Valdez is one place you must visit when you come to Alaska.
Among the population of 5,000 there are several who remember the Good Friday, 1964, earthquake that shook the town for almost 5 minutes and registered 8.6 on the Richter Scale. The town was so damaged that the few remaining buildings were moved to a new site about four miles down the road, and the original 1898 gold rush town site in the shadow of Valdez glacier was abandoned. The local museum has several exhibits and artifacts showing the town before and after the quake.
Good Fridays have not been good days in the history of Valdez. It was Good Friday, 1989, that the Exxon Valdez scraped up on Bligh Reef on the way out of Prince William Sound and spilled several thousand barrels of oil into the water. The wildlife appears to have no ill effects from the spill, but there are still beaches in the Sound where you can dig less than a foot down and strike oil!
Here’s a shot of the city from across the sound on Allison Point. You can see how the Chugach Mountains surround the area. These mountains are filled with glaciers and waterfalls.
We visited Valdez with our tent for several days last week. While there we did a couple of wildlife and glacier cruises and took a half day kayak adventure. It was our first…and possibly our last…kayak adventure. It’s amazing how after a couple of hours in a kayak, you just want to stand up and bend you legs, especially while you are still out on the water!
Everyone says that the weather in Valdez is always bad, but we had three out of four B E A U T I F U L days. On the day that wasn’t so great we did the museums, drank hot chocolate and read the Sunday paper.
Here are a few of the scenes we saw on our excursions…
Dall’s porpoise racing along beside the boat.
Rafts of sea otters lazily floating on their backs…
…some of them with pups.
Humpback whales surfacing near the boat…
…and then diving out of sight!
A pod of Orcas cruising by.
A Steller sea lion snacking on a pink salmon.
The bluest iceberg we’ve ever seen.
Thousands of pink salmon trying to get up the stream that runs
out of Solomon Gulch, just a mile or so from the Pipeline Terminal.
And the pipeline terminal.
That is an early morning shot of the terminal, taken from the campground where we were tenting, with a low hanging cloud obscuring the mountains behind the terminal.
We also saw several eagles, a couple of black bears, a female brown bear with two cubs, all manner of sea birds (kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots), more Steller sea lions than you can shake a stick at, harbor seals, waterfalls, and enormous glaciers. It’s a magnificent place…don’t miss it.
It can be foggy in that part of Alaska, and on the morning we headed back to Fairbanks, it was really socked in. We had to creep out of town and over Thompson pass on the two lane road with visibility about two feet. Fortunately, all of the smart people stayed in town, so the road was un-crowded for us!
So we are off to Seward in a few days, still in search of a breaching whale.
The adventure continues…
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