Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

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Valdez

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Gateway to Prince William Sound

Tucked into a narrow inlet along the edge of Prince William Sound lies one of the most picturesque waterfront villages in Alaska. It’s a place rich in history and vibrant with activity – where a history buff can be satisfied yet an extreme outdoor adventurer challenged.

Local tip: Valdez
"The closest and easiest (glacier) to get to is the Valdez Glacier. I highly recommend getting a kayak or taking one of the local tours. You can go right up to the face of the glacier and even walk around on the glacier. It’s an easy paddle and the scenery is spectacular." – Colleen Price

Visitors to this small town will recognize Valdez’s beauty immediately. Whether arriving via Alaska State Ferry or driving the Richardson Highway up and over Thompson Pass, the scenery is stunning. In fact, getting to Valdez is half the fun.

Driving over Thompson Pass is breathtaking, with its open-mountain vistas reaching 2,678 feet. This landmark site sees some of the deepest snowfalls in Alaska – during the 1952-53 season, for example, the Pass experienced an unprecedented 81-plus feet of snow.

Or take an Alaska Marine Highway ferry, which travels across Prince William Sound, affording the leisure traveler a chance to sit back and let someone else do the driving.

Once in Valdez, the fun continues. History connoisseurs can learn more about this small town, home to some 4,000 residents. Native Alaskans inhabited the region for hundreds of years, but it was not until the late 1800s that prospectors arrived, lured by golden riches to be had.

On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake ever to hit North America devastated Valdez. The magnitude 9.2 quake rattled for more than five minutes, causing $15 million in damage and claiming 31 lives in Valdez, many of them children.

Twenty-five years later, Valdez was again in national and international news when on March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into Prince William Sound. The collision remains one of the most devastating oil spills in the history of oil production.

Thrill seekers will love Valdez’s many adrenaline-raising options, from white-water rafting the nearby Lowe River, to heli-skiing off a snowy peak to kayaking amid the otters in Prince William Sound.

Or dial it down a notch, like Colleen Price, a 22-year resident of Valdez, often does.

“On a sunny day I love to ride my bike down to the boat harbor and the city dock," she said. "It’s so much fun seeing the hustle and bustle of folks coming and going on boats catching fish and relaxing by Ruth Pond."

Often, Price said, she’ll pack a lunch to enjoy with friends or family, and sit at the dock, simply watching the wildlife.

"We’ve seen Orcas, sea lions, seals, otters, numerous sea birds and fish jumping all on the same night," she said. "Of course, if you want to see critters galore we always head over to Dayville Road to the fish hatchery." There, she said, it’s not too uncommon to see brown bears feeding o the fish from the beach.

VALDEZ ATTRACTIONS

Maxine and Jesse Whitney Museum: Featuring one of the largest collections of Native Alaskan art and artifacts in the world.
Where: 303 Lowe St. in Prince William Sound Community College
When: Summer 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, May through September; winter 10 a.m. to 5p.m., Monday through Friday, and weekends by appointment, excluding college holidays.
Cost: Free
Phone: 907-834-1690
Web: www.mjwhitneymuseum.org

Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline: The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is among the largest pipeline systems in the world, covering 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The pipeline runs alongside the Richardson Highway on the way into Valdez, and is the best place for viewing. The terminal no longer offers tours, due to tight, post-9/11 security.
Web: www.alyeska-pipe.com

Valdez Museum and Historical Archive: Exhibits feature stories of the Gold Rush, the founding of Valdez, the oil pipeline and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The “Remembering Old Valdez” exhibit is four blocks from the museum (436 S. Hazelet) and features a scale model of Old Town Valdez as it was just before the massive 1964 Good Friday earthquake.
Where: 217 Egan Drive
When: Summer hours, mid-May through mid-September, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; winter hours, noon to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. The Remembering Old Valdez exhibit is open by appointment only in winter and in summer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Cost: $7 adults, $6 seniors, $5 youth 14 to17, children 13 and younger free.
Phone: 907-835-2764
Web: www.valdezmuseum.org

Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau: Information on businesses and activities in Valdez as well as maps and sample itineraries for visitors.
Where: 104 Chenega St.
When: Summer hours, May until Labor Day, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday (limited hours on Sunday); winter
hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Phone: 907-835-4636
Web: www.valdezalaska.org

Keystone Canyon: Visitors driving to Valdez will pass through
the canyon, but for adventure-seekers, it’s a destination. The Lowe River is popular for white-water rafting and kayaking, and the steep canyon walls are a challenge for rock and ice climbers. The canyon also has hiking trails with impressive waterfall views.
Where: Mile 13 to 16 Richardson Highway

Worthington Glacier: In Thompson Pass, 28 miles from Valdez on the Richardson Highway, the Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site provides visitors a view of the glacier. Tour companies also offer packages with trips to the glacier.
Where: Mile 28.7 Richardson Highway
When: open daily
Cost: Free

VALDEZ EVENTS CALENDAR

May Day Fly-in and Air Show: Bush pilots from around the world compete in events such as flour bombing, short takeoffs and landings, and a poker fun run.
Where: Valdez Airport
When: Dates were not set at press time, but it generally is held in mid-May
Cost: Entry fees vary
Phone: 907-835-4636
Web: www.valdezalaska.org

Valdez Fish Derbies: Be sure to get your derby tickets before
heading out on the water. Daily and weekly prizes are awarded in addition to the grand prizes for the overall biggest fish. The grand prize for silver salmon and halibut is$15,000.
Where: Valdez waters. Weigh in at the station on Chitina Street, a half mile from the harbormaster’s office.
When: Halibut May 18-Sept 1; silver salmon July 20-Sept. 1; women’s silver salmon Aug. 10; kids’ pink salmon July 20
Cost: $10 daily or $50 for the season
Phone: 907-835-5680
Web: www.valdezfishderbies.com

Last Frontier Theatre Conference: In its 20th year, this annual conference features work from playwrights across the country. Writers submit one-act or full-length plays, and selected works are read by actors and critiqued. The conference also has master classes, panel discussions and evening performances.
Where: Valdez Civic Center
When: May 19-25
Cost: $50 registration fee, $20 for one-day registration, $10 for evening performances, $35 for gala tickets
Phone: 907-834-1614
Web: www.theatreconference.org

The Fireweed 400: The bicycle race across Alaska celebrates its10th year in 2012 and has cyclists competing in distances from 50 miles to 400.
Where: The race begins at Sheep Mountain Lodge and travels across mountains with the 200-mile-race finish line in
Valdez. Racers on the 400-mile course reach Valdez, then turn around and head back to Sheep Mountain.
When: July 13-14
Phone: 907-562-2965
Web: www.fireweed400.com

Pink Salmon Festival/Fourth of July Festival: Celebrate the Fourth with parades, music and salmon cook-offs.
Where: Downtown
When: July 4
Phone: 907-835-4636
Web: www.valdezalaska.org

Valdez Gold Rush Days: Celebrate the history of Valdez with the city’s biggest annual festival featuring music, food, High 5 triathlon, a parade and games.
When: First week in August
Where: Downtown
Web: www.valdezgoldrushdays.org

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