Alaska is for the eagles!
     Valdez became our first major stop in Alaska and fantastic it was.  (See, I can do Yoda speak.)  It started with a spectacular 100 mile drive into town.  Nancy proclaimed the drive to be the best one so far in Alaska.  (Technically she is correct as the drives into Skagway, Haines and Hyder were mostly in Canada.)  The drive was really special as it featured 2 towering waterfalls; an approachable glacier; wildlife; and of course; massive, snow crowned mountains.  (No, we never get tired of seeing giant, snowy mountains!)
The road to Valdez. 
The road to Valdez.
     Valdez is located on a deep-water, ice-free inlet of the Prince William Sound.  It is most famous for being the end point of the Alaska Pipeline, as well as, near the location of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989 which almost destroyed the Prince William Sound.  In fact, the Sound has not yet fully recovered from this travesty.  Also, on Good Friday in 1964 Valdez suffered a 9.2 magnitude earthquake which caused the city to sink before a tsunami rolled in to completely wipe-out the town. The survivors salvaged whatever was left and moved the town a few miles down the road to a more stable location.
Horsetail Falls on the road to Valdez.
The small boat harbor in Valdez. 
Nancy hanging out in Valdez.
Across the harbor from Valdez is the end of the the Alaska Pipeline.
The mountainside is chock full of massive oil storage tanks. 
     Valdez is completely surrounded by massive snow capped mountains.  These mountains are so steep that they seem to sprout more waterfalls here than Rivendell.  (The home of the Elves in "Lord of the Rings.")  Mercifully, Valdez remains largely untouched by the cruise ship industry and supports itself from the oil and fishing industries.  So the tourist area, on a small boat harbor, is cute without hoards of people, jewelry stores and gift shops.
Notice the juvenile bald eagle behind the adult.

The bald eagles of Valdez.
     What to do in Valdez?  Well, we hiked up to the base of the Worthington Glacier and got to touch the smooth blue ice which is hundreds of years old.
Nancy at the base of Worthington Glacier.
Nancy got bopped on the head by a rock letting loose from the glacier above.

A video of Worthington Glacier.

     We took a cruise on Prince William Sound and up the Columbia Bay fjord to the massive Columbia Glacier.  Like all Alaska glaciers (except 1), the Columbia Glacier is receding at an alarming rate so the fjord was clogged with icebergs.  We were very fortunate to see a nearby iceberg, which became top heavy, flip over and rock back and forth before settling into its new inverted state. Our ship's captain had to dodge thousands of icebergs before the channel became completely blocked approximately 2 miles away from the face of the glacier.  As we banged against these floating ice cubes I couldn't help but think about the Titanic.  I was just happy that Nancy didn't start singing Celine Dion songs.
An iceberg floating in the fjord on the way to the Columbia Glacier.
Notice the eagle sitting on the highest point of the iceberg.
(Hint--the eagle's head appears as a tiny white dot.)
2 glaciers are flowing into the fjord creating the headwall of
the Columbia Glacier.  This is a view from 6 miles away.
The face of the main glacier to the right exceeds 300' in height.
Part of the Columbia Glacier flows to the sea.
Notice the moraine being pushed along with the glacier.
The icebergs are starting to clog the route to the face of the glacier.
This photo was taken about 3 miles away.
We were only able to get 2 miles away.
Notice the Harp Seal and its pup floating on one of the icebergs.
Some otters hanging out on an iceberg at he Columbia Glacier.
     Valdez is full of eagles and one enterprising campground owner presents an eagle feeding every afternoon.  On the day of our visit we saw 20-30 adult bald eagles and several juvenile bald eagles. The juveniles closely resemble golden eagles for 4-5 years before they develop the snowy white heads and tails we all except to see.  At times the feeding turned into a real frenzy.  It was interesting watching the juveniles defer to the adults and the seagulls ducking for cover while trying to steal a scrap or two.  Way cool!
A juvenile defers to the adult.
A juvenile tries to defend its turf.
The feeding frenzy. 
Dinner time.
     One of the best things was our kayak trip to Valdez Glacier.  The glacier is right outside of town and terminates at a small lake.  When we arrived the lake looked like a small, muddy pond filled with glacial silt which turned the water to a steely-gray color.  There was no sign of a glacier and the icebergs floating nearby were black with glacial moraine (dirt & rocks).  We decided to put-in anyway as the day was warm and sunny, and we didn't have any other place to be.  What a treat!

Sorry about all the eagle photos, but we were completely overwhelmed
by the eagles in Valdez.
     It turned out that the lake was much larger than it appeared and the glacier was hidden around the corner of a mountain outcropping.  We were able to paddle to the face of the glacier for an "up-close-and-personal" view.  The glacier attained heights of 30-40 feet above the surface of the water, was covered in moraine, but also, revealed sections of snowy white ice with a blue glow. We were able to weave in and out of the channels in the glacier's wall and we even took a short stroll on top of this river of ice.  We were fortunate the glacier was not "calving" as we were dangerously close, but we saw plenty of rocks and chunks of ice cascading down the face of the glacier.

Eagles are the masters of the skies.
     Since the lake was full of icebergs the water temperature was just above freezing.  This did not bode well for my hands as they get very wet as my due to my whitewater paddling style.  Also, since the day was warm I only wore a short sleeve shirt.  This worked out well until I got into the glacier's channels where the freezing water combined with the ice cold walls of the glacier to drop the temperatures dramatically.  I guess this is how an ice-box works.  Our glacier kayak trip was a fantastic highlight.
A walk on top of Valdez Glacier.
The water is not part of the lake but rather
sits on the surface of the glacier.
Maneuvering through the channels in the face of the Valdez Glacier.
An iceberg calved by the Valdez Glacier.
     Whenever we get to a place we like we tend to stay well beyond our original expectations and Valdez fell into this category as our 4 night stay turned into 7 nights.  This is one of the best parts about not having set plans or reservations.  Okay, those of you who really know me probably just had a heart attack.  Sorry!
     Next stop=Anchorage.


  1. We are headed to Valdez from Chitina tomorrow. Is that kayaking area pretty easy to find/get to?

  2. Great pictures. Loving following your trip. Travel safe!!


Post a Comment