a   l   a   s   k   a   j   o   u   r   n   e   y   .   c   o   m
Southcentral Mountains & Prince William Sound
AlaskaJourney Home

Southcentral Mountains & Prince William Sound


The Copper River Valley


Tok Cutoff (AK1/Glenn Highway) Gakona Junction to Tok

Glenn Highway (AK1) Palmer to Glenallen

South Richardson Highway (AK4) Valdez to Glenallen

Copper Center

Edgerton Highway (AK10) & Chitina

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

McCarthy & Kennicott

Prince William Sound & Chugach National Forest

Cordova and the Copper River Delta



Cordova and the Copper River Delta


Location/Climate: On Prince William Sound, 140 air miles east-southeast of Anchorage. 151"/yr. precip., 80"/yr. snowfall, 17°F–63°F.

Population: 2,568 (12–20 percent native).

Travel Attractions: Access to Prince William Sound, Kayak Island, Copper River delta, Million Dollar Bridge, and Child’s Glacier; Chugach National Forest; kayaking, hiking, and fishing.

Getting There: Scheduled ferry service from Valdez and Whittier; scheduled air service from Anchorage.

Information: Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 99, Cordova, 424-7260, www.ctcak.net/~cchamber.

Definitely off the beaten path, Cordova is inaccessible by road (for now), unvisited by cruise ships, at the end of the ferry line, and somewhat expensive to reach by air. Commercial fishing and fish processing dominate the economy, with a big dose of timber harvesting and government work thrown in. The travelers who do visit tend to be independents or small groups, since there is little for large groups to do and no good way for them to get there.

Like almost all coastal towns, Cordova outfitters and charter companies support fishing, wildlife viewing, river running, and coastal touring itineraries (see the Appendix). Of particular note are the van tours that travel 48 miles out to the Million Dollar Bridge and back, stopping for views of wetland wildlife, eagles, mountains, and the glaciers at the end of the road.

A van shuttle to town meets every plane and ferry, but consider walking into town instead. The coast road north of town along Orca Inlet is also pleasant for a walk. Beyond the ferry dock you’ll find "Hippie Cove," where several low-budget residents live in vans, trailers, and tents. Most hiking access requires a hitch or a shuttle, though Mount Eyak, Crater Lake, and Power Creek are close enough to walk. Strolling the pleasant town center and meeting local folks is a great way to spend a day.

Things to See and Do in Cordova

Cordova Historical Museum—Located with the visitor center at 1st and Browning, this museum features cultural artifacts of the Chugach, Eyak, and Tlingit peoples, including a three-hole baidarka and a dug-out canoe. Centennial Building, 622 1st Street, 424-6665, open Monday–Saturday in summer, Tuesday–Saturday in winter.

Mount Eyak Skiing/Chairlift Rides—For a great view, ride to the summit of Mount Eyak. With a moderate scramble down the north side of the peak, you can reach Emerald Lake and good hiking options (see Copper River Delta/Cordova–Area Hiking, above). Winter visitors can enjoy the slopes. Walk up Browning Street, take a left on 4th, a right on Council, then a left on 6th to the ski area. In summer, call for lift-operation information, 424-7766.

Where to Stay in Cordova

Cordova Rose Lodge, 1315 Whitshed Road (half a mile from town past camper park), 424-ROSE. My favorite place—a restored barge (on land) and cottage, $50 and up.

The Reluctant Fisherman, 407 Railroad Avenue (on water at small boat harbor), (800) 770-3272 or 424-3272. $85–$135 (in season), $60–$75 (winter). Closest thing to a luxury hotel; restaurant and bar with view; car rentals $60–$75 per day, unlimited mileage. NOTE: Apparently, The Reluctant Fisherman closed for business in 7/03 due to the death of the owner. As the towns main lodging facility, I don't doubt that it will reopen at some point. Call ahead.

Where to Eat in Cordova

Baja Taco, New Harbor (in lot below Railroad at Nicholoff), 424-5599. Outdoor seating. Great Mexican when the weather is good!

Cookhouse Cafe, Cannery Row (follow 1st west and north for half a mile to cannery and piers), 424-5926. Open May–September, 5:30 a.m. to close. Hearty worker fare, pancakes, Sunday brunch.

The Killer Whale, P.O. Box 769, 1st Street, 424-7733. Great place teamed with a bookshop. Omelets, deli fare, soups, and salads.

Copper River Delta

The third main unit of the Chugach after Kenai and Prince William Sound is the Copper River delta region east of Cordova. Hundreds of square miles of wetlands dominate a 60-mile-long swath of coastline from Point Whitshed, near Cordova, to Cape Suckling, near the terminus of massive Bering Glacier. The Copper and other rivers drain into marshlands, ponds, braided streams, sloughs, shallows, tidal flats, and sandbars, creating an outstanding habitat. The value of these wetlands to regional fisheries cannot be overstated.

The Copper River Highway (AK 10) provides access from Cordova to the western wetlands and up into the Copper Valley, while various trails offer limited access to the surrounding areas. The highway follows the path of the railroad that carried ore trains from the Kennecott Mine to Cordova between 1908 and 1936. At Mile 48, the road effectively ends at the Million Dollar Bridge, built to allow the railroad to avoid both Childs and Miles Glaciers, which meet the river on opposite sides. Twenty years after the last train rolled, the bridge was opened as a highway bridge. A section of the bridge collapsed in the 1964 earthquake, ending its use for a time. In the mid-1970s the placement of a temporary connector made the bridge usable again, but 1995 flood damage closed it once more. Van tours from Cordova run out to the bridge and include wildlife and glacier viewing (see the Appendix). Exploration by canoe and kayak is possible from several put-ins along the road.

Cordova Area Hiking

A number of short hiking trails are accessible from the Copper Highway and the road system around Cordova. For detailed information on additional hiking trails, visit the Chugach National Forest office in Cordova (see Chugach National Forest details above). These include:

Child’s Glacier Trail (1.2 miles)—This easy gravel trail follows the Copper River from the end of the Million Dollar Bridge to a viewing platform directly across the river from the 300-foot face of Child’s Glacier. If you’re down at the riverside, watch for waves created by calving bergs across the way. RT—2 hrs.

Crater Lake Trail (2.4 miles)—From Cordova, follow Power Creek Road 1.5 miles along the north shore of Eyak Lake to just past the airstrip. Head north at the trailhead up a steep contour through spruce-hemlock forest with Mount Eyak on your left and views of the delta on your right. Enjoy the lake at trail’s end or continue on the exposed ridge 5.5 miles north, until the difficult, cairn-marked route drops into Power Creek Valley and joins the Power Creek Trail (12-mile total loop). RT to Crater Lake—4–5 hrs.; entire Power Creek loop—all day.

McKinley Lake Trail (2.4 miles)/Pipeline Lakes Trail (3.2 miles to McKinley Lake)—Start at Mile 21.4 of the Copper River Highway for the Pipeline Lakes option, mile 21.6 for the direct route. These easy trails are basically fishing-access routes, but lead to two reservable backcountry cabins, the McKinley Lake Cabin (best location) and the McKinley Trail Cabin (100 yards from the road). For reservation information, see Chugach National Forest details above.

Muskeg Meander Ski Trail (3.1 miles)—From the trailhead at Mile 18.6 of the Copper River Highway, the trail climbs gradually through muskegs and forest patches to a high point that affords views of the delta. Winter use only. RT—4 hrs.

Power Creek Trail (4.2 miles)—Follow Power Creek Road to its end, 7 miles from Cordova along the north shore of Eyak Lake. The moderate trail continues upvalley to the reservable Power Creek Cabin. This lovely valley is surrounded by 4,000-foot glacier-capped peaks. It’s possible to return via Crater Lake (see above). RT—6–8 hrs.

Saddlebag Glacier Trail (3 miles)—Good for hiking, mountain biking (because it’s relatively dry), and skiing, this easy trail heads north from Mile 25 of the Copper River Highway. Look for mountain goats as you enjoy the splendid glacier viewing at Saddlebag Lake at trail’s end. RT—4–5 hrs.