Prince William Sound & Copper Basin Points of Interest

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Points of Interest

How and where to find Alaska’s glac­i­ers — some of the state’s most beau­ti­ful nat­ur­al attractions

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

This point sep­a­rates Col­lege Fjord and Bar­ry Arm. You can see dead spruce trees which stand as silent tes­ti­mo­ny to the destruc­tion of the 1964 earth­quake. The land sunk more than 6 feet expos­ing the roots to salt­wa­ter and drown­ing the trees.

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.

Explore the Wild World of the Cop­per Riv­er Delta. In this Audio Guide, you’ll get to learn about car­niver­ous plants, mush­rooms that hunt their prey, and find out why Cor­do­va is one of the best places in the world to see migrat­ing shorebirds.

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

It’s free to go this far by car, and you’ll get a pic­ture-per­fect shot of Portage Glacier.

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

Coghill Point is the ter­mi­nus of the Coghill Riv­er, a world-famous red salmon fish­ery. Dur­ing the sock­eye salmon open­er (mid-July to ear­ly-August), hun­dreds of com­mer­cial gill net­ters scat­ter across the area pulling in the bounty.

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

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