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Terminus of the 800-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the little town of Valdez (population 4,000) is surrounded by jagged mountains befitting its "Little Switzerland" moniker. Two disasters had major impacts on the region: the 1964 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the old town, and the 1989 wreck of the Exxon Valdez that dumped oil into nearby Prince William Sound. Signs of both disasters are not readily visible to visitors today, though environmental impacts from the oil linger. Boat tours of the Sound pass drifting icebergs from massive Columbia Glacier and noisy sea lion rookeries. The town also serves as a base for multi-night sea ...

Terminus of the 800-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the little town of Valdez (population 4,000) is surrounded by jagged mountains befitting its "Little Switzerland" moniker. Two disasters had major impacts on the region: the 1964 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the old town, and the 1989 wreck of the Exxon Valdez that dumped oil into nearby Prince William Sound. Signs of both disasters are not readily visible to visitors today, though environmental impacts from the oil linger. Boat tours of the Sound pass drifting icebergs from massive Columbia Glacier and noisy sea lion rookeries. The town also serves as a base for multi-night sea kayaking tours into the Sound. North from Valdez, the Richardson Highway parallels the Lowe River through Keystone Canyon, whose Class-III rapids are a favorite of rafters and kayakers. Waterfalls plummet over high cliffs, and the highway climbs into the alpine at Thompson Pass, a good spot to explore Worthington Glacier. Valdez contains two excellent museums, and is popular with anglers. By the way, the town's correct pronunciation is val-DEEZ.

Don Pitcher
About the Expert

Don Pitcher has written or photographed 10 travel guidebooks to Alaska, Wyoming, Yellowstone-Grand Teton, and the San Juan Islands for Avalon Travel Publishing, Random House, and Sasquatch Books.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Valdez is located near the head of a deep fjord in the Prince William Sound, Alaska. It is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains, which are heavily glaciated. Valdez is the northernmost port in North America that is ice-free year-round.
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    All summer for Prince William Sound tours