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Valdez Travel Guide, Alaska

Valdez is nestled at the head of a long, dramatic fjord, 304 road miles from Anchorage.

This ice-free deep-water port in the western hemisphere offers some activity or other whenever you come. There are good opportunities for hiking, wildlife-viewing, sea kayaking, great opportunities for canoeing, rafting and the city makes a good base for fishing all these with the steep mountains, glaciers and waterfalls in the background.

The town sprang up overnight in 1898 together with the Klondike gold rush trying to establish another route to the gold fields. The town soon grew from a remote whaling station to a prosperous town with thousands of people heading to the mines in the Yukon. Not many were prepared to endure the cold and unfriendly weather and only few of them reached their destination.

Valdez changed its role into a military post for supplying materials during World War II and a prosperous fishing town. This prosperity was short lived as On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake recorded in North America shook the town and destroyed the roads, buildings and killed 33 residents. The earthquake’s epicenter was quite close, 45 miles west of town under Miners Lake. Not much has remained after the huge wave swept over the waterfront, but its tough residents refused to give up and found the strength to rebuild a drab replacement four miles away on safer grounds. Little by little other buildings sprung up and mad up the town that it is today.

Their decision was blessed as after a few years, in the 1970s they struck oil beneath Prudhoe Bay and the town’s fate turned. It became the southern terminus of the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline completed in 1977 whose construction brought in great profit. 25 years after the earthquake another disaster occurred close to the town, a massive and environmentally costly oil spill from the Exxon Valdez tanker that surprisingly helped the little town’s economy as it brought in many jobs. The cleanup directed from the town involved a lot of workers and lasted until 1991. The spill caused a lot of damage to the wildlife that hasn’t completely recovered.

The city’s present income generator is industry, but there is a growing consciousness of the need to preserve natural beauty and architecture of the city and a lot has been done to doll up the waterfront, still not many come to visit the city in particular, they mostly come for the active recreation opportunities offered by the outdoors namely for Prince William Sound.

The weather is not at its best here as in summer it is quite rainy and in winter they get pretty much snow, but that does not stop nature lovers to indulge in their favorite activities. They can choose from: water taxi and kayak drop-off, ice climbing and glacier hiking, fishing, river rafting and sea-kayaking. Going on a tour boat into the Sound is a must. You are guaranteed a memorable experience passing through the long fjord of Port Valdez, watching wildlife in their habitat.

There are great opportunities on the Duck Flats for sea-kayaking especially for first timers, but you won’t feel like you are in the wilderness with the road on our side; better rides are to the Shoup or Columbia glaciers that you can either do on your own or choose Pangaea Adventures guided tour that also offer guided camping trips deeper into the Sound and many other experiences to suit every taste and budget.

The ocean halibut and salmon fishing are excellent and not overexploited. So just choose yourself a good spot on the shore, on the city dock or on harbor floats and start fishing, but if you want a really good catch it’s better to get out on the water, boats and gear are available for rental.

Whether you're looking for a relaxing vacation with the opportunity to rediscover the sites of Prince William Sound or just enjoy the scenery or to experience a great area for outdoor activities, Valdez is the place to be.

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