Points of Interest
Built during WWII as a top-secret military project, today Whittier is a great jumping-off place to explore Prince William Sound. To connect Whittier with the rest of the Alaska Railroad, during the war the military constructed a massive tunnel. Today the expanded tunnel is the longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America.
Bull kelp has made amazing adaptations to survive in the harsh Gulf of Alaska environment. It is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, and can grow to 100 feet in length. It is found around deeper water shorelines and often washed up on beaches after storms. The area close to Orca Cannery is an excellent place to tide pool and look for seaweeds, including bull kelp.
In 1899, the Harriman Glacier extended all the way to here, leaving only a tight passage through which the ship could fit. Harriman made the gutsy decision to sail through it, allowing them to be the first explorers and probably the first humans to see this magnificent fjord. The glacial moraine still extends from the shore out to this point and you can see it just 6 feet below the surface at low tide.
Harbor seals and sea otters are common sights in the Whittier Small Boat Harbor. You might also see salmon enthusiastically leaping from the water, a sight that cues locals to run for their fishing poles. King salmon run from May through early-July. From late-July through early-September, a run of silver salmon brings anglers from throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Cordova is known in to the locals as Alaska’s hidden treasure. It’s a small, hard-working fishing community with a population of about 2,270. Located near the mount of the Copper River, it nestles peacefully at the head of Orca Inlet in Prince William sound and has a mystique all its own. In the area are glacier-carved mountains, wildlife-rich wetlands, lush forests, and countless waterways that host many exciting activities such as skiing,… ...more
Many species of birds migrate each year, but do we really know why? Do they migrate because of food scarcity or for breeding purposes? Learn about some of the possibilities. Hartney Bay in early May is dominated by large flocks of various shore birds as they head north to breed in Alaska.
Learn about a unique invertebrate organism that lives in all oceans of the world including areas around Cordova and the Copper River Delta, the Tunicate! An excellent place to look for tunicates, or “sea squirts” as they are commonly known, is on the edge of the docks just below waterline. The docks in the Cordova boat harbor have many species of these sometimes colorful but tiny organisms.
The area of Whittier has long served as passage between Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm. The Alaska Engineering Expedition envisioned a rail line out to this largely unsettled area back in 1914, but it was the U.S. Army that made Whittier where and what it is.
Sandhill Cranes migrate through the Copper River Delta with a brief stop-over and rest at Hartney Bay in the spring and fall. Anywhere along the paved road at Hartney Bay from the bridge to the end of the paved road is a great place to see these magnificent birds.
Driving from Anchorage to Whittier to play in Prince William Sound? You’ll go through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel — the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel in North America, and the first designed for ‑40 Fahrenheit temperatures and 150 mph winds! The one-lane tunnel must be shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions, and it usually needs to be aired out in between trips (with jet turbine ventilation, another first!). This unique… ...more
Trees that are stressed due to weather, disease or insects are more likely to produce large growths called burls, or galls. Some artists will take these burls and make beautiful decorative bowls out of them. If you want to see some great examples of burls, hike along the Heney Ridge Trail. Approximately 2 miles from the trail head and a few hundred yards after crossing the large log bridge, you will find an area where several spruce trees on… ...more
Technically, Portage is no longer a roadside glacier, as it recedes an average of one foot a day and is now no longer visible from the road, but its big blue icebergs are often found along the shore of the lake, right in front of the parking area. On Byron, ice worms are common, if you get down and look. There are also beautiful ice caves and rivulets to see, but be careful not to walk too far onto the ice of this tempting glacier. You can see… ...more
If you’ve yet to set eyes on an iceberg, here’s your chance. This lake sits at the terminus of the Valdez Glacier and is often home to chunks of ice that are making a go of it on their own. It’s a nice place to get unimpeded views of the Chugach Mountains and the Valdez Glacier. And with the warming climate, it’s a place worth seeing before the glacier retracts farther than it already has.In fact, the ice on this glacier has been more or less… ...more