Situated at the head of a deep, stillwater fjord in the northeast section of Prince William Sound, Valdez is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains. They are the most heavily glaciated mountains in the Northwest. Valdez is the northernmost ice-free port in North America. The town covers 274 square miles. As of 2000, the population was 4,100.
BY LAND – Valdez is accessible by the Richardson Highway. BY AIR – Valdez is serviced daily, year-round by a regional airline. BY WATER – Major cruise lines, day cruise boats, and a regional ferry keep Valdez connected via Prince William Sound.
Valdez Fish Derbies, July 4th Celebrations, Last Frontier Theater Conference, Gold Rush Days, Softball & Basketball Tournaments, Ice Climbing Festival, Chugach Mountain Festival with the World Free Skiing Competition, Mayor’s Cup Cross Country Snowmobile Race, Mountain Man Snowmobile Hill Climb Competition, Alaska Big Mountain Masters Extreme Snowboard Competition, Alaska Local Snowboard Competition, KVAK WInterfest & Frosty Fever, and much more!
Oil, tourism, commerical fishing, seafood processing, shipping, city & state government, and post-secondary education.
Many full-service hotels, bed & breakfasts, and RV campgrounds. History
Historically-as well as now-the territory south of Valdez belonged to the Chugach (pronounced “chew-gach”) Eskimo, a maritime hunting people. To the north the land is that of the Ahtna, an Athabaskan speaking people of the Copper River Basin. Although it is unclear where there was a native village at one time in Port Valdez, it is certain that the Chugach and Ahtna did use the area for fishing and trading copper, jade, hides and other furs. The Chugach had eight principal village spread throughout the rest of Prince William Sound. Of these, only Tatitlek survives today
Captain Cook was possibly the first non-Alaska Native in Prince William Sound. He sailed into the Sound in 1778, naming it Sandwich Sound after his patron, the Earl of Sandwich. When Cook returned to England, the editors of his maps renamed the sound after Prince William IV, popularly known as “Silly Billy” (the English royalty was by this time already in decline). Cook named Hinchinbrook and Montague Islands, as well as Bligh Island and several other locations in the Sound. George Vancouver, who had sailed with Cook on his earlier voyages, did the most extensive exploration of Prince William Sound, and it was he who was able to establish conclusively that the Sound was not part of the fabled Northwest Passage (a route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic archipelago of Canada).
Several years later, in 1790, the Spanish cartographer Lt. Salvador Fidalgo was sent to Alaska to investigate the extent of Russian involvement and to establish the Spanish claim in the area. As Fidalgo explored the Sound, he named Cordova, Port Gravina and other places. The Exploratory party, which he sent to Columbia Bay guided by two natives, was the first to approach Columbia Glacier. The group did not stay long near the glacier, concluding that it was an active volcano because of the loud thunder and “great pieces of snow” being flung from it. The men ventured down the Valdez Arm and perhaps into Port Valdez. Fidalgo named the area “Bay of Valdez” after Admiral Antonio Valdez, who was head of the Spanish Marines and Minister of the Indies at the time.
The Russians, during their ownership of Alaska, did little exploring of Prince William Sound; they were primarily interested in amassing sea otter pelts. Nuchek, on Hichinbrrok Island, became the center for trade in the area, between Russians and the natives and among the various native groups.