This historic town has truly stood the test of time. After being nearly totally destroyed by the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and Tsunami, the community members in this special place strongly stood together and completely rebuilt from the ground up. Today it is a flourishing area that is known for its most northernmost port, oil pipeline, epic sport and commercial fishing, renowned heli-skiing adventures, thriving tourism industry, epic canyon with huge waterfalls, gleaming glaciers in Prince William Sound, whitewater rafting and fascinating amounts of snow in the wintertime. Oh, and the fun, kind and hospitable locals are some of the best people you will meet in the last frontier!
Welcome to the stunningly beautiful and historic town of Valdez, Alaska. Located at the head of a plunging, deep fjord in Prince William Sound with a population of roughly 4,000 year-round residents, Valdez is unique and incredibly important for many reasons.
Valdez is home to the northernmost port in North America that is ice-free year-round, of which was actually named in 1790 after Spanish Navy Minister Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán. Commercial freight moves from Valdez to interior Alaska and the largest employer in the area continues to be the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. In addition to oil, Valdez is also a major sport and commercial fishing community with the large boat docks to prove it.
To get to Valdez, visitors can hop on the Richardson Highway which was actually Alaska's first road. This historic road was known to 1898 and was known to gold seekers as the "Valdez to Eagle Trail" as it was originally built by the U.S. Army as a pack trail from Valdez to the town of Eagle. In 1910 it was upgraded to a wagon trail and eventually it was named the Richardson Highway after U.S. Army General Wilds P. Richardson.
The Richardson Highway is 368 miles in length and it connects Valdez to Fairbanks. It also runs alongside the Trans Alaskan Oil Pipeline which connects from Valdez to Prudhoe Bay.
Along the way, be sure to stop at the Crooked Creek Information Center off of the Richardson Highway to view fascinating amounts of salmon spawning (and the bears that dine on them).
Just before you enter the beautiful and historic town of Valdez you will have no choice but to pass through the stunning Keystone Canyon across the Lowe River. Along the way you will see the beautiful sights of Bridal Veil Falls and other waterfalls booming down alongside the steep 307 feet tall terrain. If you're an adventure seeker you can opt to stay a while and enjoy a whitewater rafting trip down the river to get a more up-close-and-personal experience.
Another stunning sight along the way is the "snowiest place in Alaska" known as Thompson Pass. The 2,805 high peaks of the Chugach Mountains are some of the most breathtaking sights to behold in the last frontier.
This area averages around 1000 inches of snow each year and is perfect for those adrenaline junkies looking to shred the softest and most pristine powder in Alaska. Valdez Heli-Ski Guides offer up close and personal experiences with some of the most renowned mountains in the world, located right in the heart of Valdez country. Heli-Skiing is just one of the many segments that helps to build a super strong year-round tourism industry in Valdez.
Many visitors are attracted to Valdez because it is simply a stunning glaciated area that has some of the most pristine, gleaming glaciers in all of Alaska. Worthington Glacier is just one of the many that stands out and offers phenomenal photo opportunities.
Another huge attraction from the tourism industry standpoint are the glacier kayaking excursions. Paddle around Prince William Sound and feast your eyes on stunning views of glaciers and huge mountain peaks.
Along the way you'll likely be able to enjoy a vast amount of both marine and land wildlife viewing opportunities. Pull to shore and enjoy tons of hiking trails taking you deep within Wrangell St. Elias Wilderness area.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular things about Valdez is that the sense of community that is felt when in the town is abundantly live and refreshing. Small towns in Alaska have a way of tugging at your heart strings, but Valdez is truly on a whole new level. Maybe it's the deep history or the town's ability to rebuilt that has everyone bound together in tight-knit fashion. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and the abundant amount of avalanches that have hit the area over the years are just a few of the devastating events that come to mind. But through it all, the community seems stronger than ever.
This aerial view (pictured above) shows the majority of "old Valdez" which was where the town was prior to the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and Tsunami. Over the far left is the "new Valdez" area where town is today.
As you cruse into the original Valdez town site you will drive through a total blast from the past.
The town post office was built roughly two years before the hit of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and Tsunami. The foundation is one of the only foundations that survived.
The massive landslide that occurred during the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and Tsunami claimed far too many lives in Valdez. Those names are listed above and honored in the old town site area where the post office foundation is.
The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and Tsunami also destroyed the city harbor and nearly all of the boat docks in the entire town.
Remnants of the past are still present today as you drive through this historic area. You will also see old bits and pieces of vehicles, shipping equipment and more.
Flickr - simpleinsomnia
Pictured above is old town Valdez in 1909 before the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and Tsunami hit and the town was demolished. It sure it incredible to see what used to be and how far the town has come through strength, perseverance and the ability to stick together through thick and thin.
Valdez is pretty incredible, huh? Now for an extra wow-factor, check out this video from January, 2014 which documents a huge avalanche that occurred (closing the road for several days) in the Keystone Canyon/Lowe River area. Alaska is such a massive, unforgiving place and this video truly puts that into perspective all too well.