A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Anchorage: 49°/64°/Partly sunny
Fairbanks: 46°/79°/Partly sunny
Juneau: 45°/71°/Mostly clear
On and off the road system, Alaska is dotted with cities, towns and villages that give the state its real character.
Luck struck around 6:30 a.m. Sunday -- less than nine hours before the end of the 10-day Slam'n Salm'n derby -- when Robert Hayes hooked a 40.97-pound king salmon that made him the winner.
Summer solstice marked the beginning of the warm season last week, but two Anchorage fly-fishermen discovered Monday morning that winter still lingers deep in the Chugach Mountains.
The Kasilof beach is cool and calm at 10 a.m. on Monday as Yolanda Thomas emerges from her family-sized tent for a morning of dipnetting on the shore of the Kasilof River.
Prince William Sound fishing town is a natural success
History hasn't always been kind to Cordova, Alaska, a fishing village of 2,400 people snuggled into the east side of wildlife-rich Prince William Sound.
Founded in 1906 and named for Puerto Cordoba, a Spanish explorer's name for what is now called Orca Inlet, it was a booming port city for Southcentral Alaska. It was the Copper River and Northwestern Railway's terminus and the shipping port for copper ore taken from the Kennecott Mine up the Copper River.
But the Katalla oil field, southeast of Cordova and one of the first in the state, was destroyed by fire in 1933 after three decades of production. And then the mining boom ended when the Kennecott mine (now part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park) closed in 1938 and the Copper River and Northwestern Railway was shut down.
The state's attempt to build a highway along the old railroad grade was halted by the Good Friday 1964 earthquake, which partly collapsed the 1910-built Million Dollar Bridge over the Copper River and also damaged the town's legendary clam beds. Twenty-five years later, the Exxon Valdez oil spill hurt the fishing fleet hard.
But Cordova has a way of hanging on.
Commercial fishing has somewhat recovered, and scenic Cordova has remained an unspoiled location for sea kayaking in Prince William Sound, hiking and birding. Sport fishing remains good here as well as across Southcentral Alaska.
Wondering about transportation to Cordova and getting around once you're there? Cordova may be reached by airplane from Anchorage, Yakutat and Valdez, and the Alaska Marine Highway System's ferry connects Cordova with Whittier and Valdez. Rental cars are available in town.
The 48-mile Copper River Highway remains open to the bridge site at Childs Glacier and Miles Lake. It passes through the country's largest wetland, a stretch of marshes, braided streams and mud flats that sprawls from Cordova east beyond the broad Copper River.
This wetland, known as the Copper River Delta State Critical Habitat, feeds millions upon millions of shorebirds and waterfowl, especially during the spring migration. Salmon swim up its streams, notably Alaganik Slough, where anglers and bears wait. The Copper River has the state's first large run of red salmon, followed quickly by the big kings.
For centuries the Alutiiq people, who lived in the area, harvested the waterfowl and salmon. They were joined by migrating Athabaskans and Tlingits who called themselves Eyaks. Eyak Mountain forms a backdrop to the town, and the large lake east of town is also named for the Eyaks.
Visitors interested in the area's history should try the city's museum, on First Street. Artifacts and exhibits help explain the Native ways and the industrial and commercial development of Cordova and Southcentral Alaska. Two of Cordova's festivals celebrate the birds and the salmon. The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival is in early May, and the Salmon Runs in early June test humans' ability to cover a marathon, half-marathon and shorter distances. Cordova's Iceworm Festival, in February, flouts cabin fever.
There's plenty to do outdoors all year.
A lot of people like to drive the highway out through bear country to the Childs Glacier Recreation Area in Chugach National Forest. The glacier's wall rises more than 300 feet over the river, shifting noisily and calving huge chunks of ice into the water. A picnic area has trails, tables and toilets.
Cordova is the launching point also for adventures in Prince William Sound. Paddlers bring their kayaks on the ferry or rent in town. There are three state marine parks in the vicinity.
Hikers choose from a handful of good routes along the highway, plus some north of town. Visitors can get to know Cordova with a one-hour walking tour, narrated with an audio tape rented at the visitors bureau. Just east of town, the popular Power Creek Trail starts in salmon and bear country along Eyak Lake and heads uphill along a gorge.
The Cordova area is home to all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as halibut and rockfish in Orca Inlet and Dolly Varden and cutthroat trout in freshwater streams. Saltwater fishing charters are available in town, and guides and floatplanes can be hired.
Guide services are available for every kind of outdoor activity, from walks to kayaking to wildlife rides along the Copper River Highway. For example, guided raft rides are available down the Copper River, starting with a 30-minute flight and ending with a take-out at the Million Dollar Bridge just before the big river funnels past the glacier.
Summers are pleasant but somewhat wet, with the Gulf of Alaska currents keeping the temperature in the range of 49 degrees to 63 degrees.
In winter, skiers ride the lift up Mount Eyak Ski Hill north of town. Winter temperatures average 17 and 28, with 118 inches of snow.