Valdez is perhaps best known for being the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster. However the clean up from this is well past and the town is a peaceful fishing port which just happens to be the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
The road into Valdez is pretty spectacular and it starts around 30 miles away with the Worthington Glacier. We found a great campsite here with a great view of the glacier.
In the morning we checked out the glacier and walked around the moraine lake and then drove into town through Keystone Canyon and briefly met another set of overlanders, Juergen and Margarite in a smaller truck based on an Iveco.
The canyon itself had a couple of big waterfalls in(Bridal Veils, Horsetail Falls) it but grey skies meant poor photos.
On reaching Valdez itself we went to the visitor centre to get the lay of the land only to discover that half the town was without power as a result of a transformer blowing at the power station.
After that we went to the ferry terminal to book onto the next day’s ferry to Cordova. This was to be our first experience of the Alaska ferry system. There are a lot of communities in Alaska that have no road access and they can only be accessed by plane or boat (this includes the capital, Juneau). The 100km trip to Cordova was $476 return for us and the Beast. This was a bit less than we expected because of a deal where the driver goes for free.
In our remaining 24 hours in Valdez we checked out the Salmon Hatchery on Dayville road. This was amazing with literally thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of Salmon trying to swim up a river which was blocked by a fish weir. There was a small fish ladder off to one side that some of the Salmon were finding and battling up. In places the number of Salmon were so dense that you could pick one out with your hands. The salmon were fighting to get up the weir so hard that some were jumping out of the water and dying. This made a feast for the hundreds of seagulls that were also around. The Salmon that do make it the hatchery then spawn and these eggs are used to produce more salmon. The hatchery is not operating commercially yet and is being developed to replace the pipeline as a business for the area when the oil stops flowing.
In the evening we found a nice place to camp in the site of the Old Valdez town. On Good Friday 1964 the biggest earthquake to hit the USA destroyed Valdez (it was a 9.2 on the Richter scale). This led to the Old town being condemned and the town being re-established on its current site 4 miles south. This has left a perfect camping spot with a great view of the fjord that Valdez sits in.