A Coastal Jewel

Cordova is an all-in-one destination

By: Christopher Batin

Located on the east side of Prince William Sound, Cordova is the hidden jewel of Alaska’s coastal towns. Like many things of value, you’ll have to search a bit to find it for your clients.

Cordova is not connected to the Alaska highway system, and most of the area’s 800 winter residents prefer it that way to maintain the city’s ambiance and character. It’s an all-in-one destination for those who want to get away from the crowds. However, clients can reach Cordova by taking the Alaska Marine Ferry or via Alaska Airlines from Anchorage or Seattle.

Cordova’s highway may dead-end in both directions but there are still plenty of day tours, sights and activities in between each end. The Copper River Highway runs for 48 miles to Childs Glacier to the northeast. Have your clients take the shuttle or rent a car and drive the road to the Million Dollar Bridge, built in 1909. There, ice chunks calving from Childs Glacier can create huge waves in the Copper River. Salmon are often washed up onshore, only to flip-flop back into the water to resume their upstream journey. It’s possible to see an eagle, fox or bear rush out of the brush, grab a flopping salmon and feast on an easily caught meal.

There’s a good reason bears and people love these salmon. World-famous Copper River sockeye have brought over $20 a pound when first caught each spring. Its firm flesh, delectable taste and high oil content makes it the creme de la creme of wild salmon. Canneries offer free tastings and clients can watch fish being processed. Shipping home a box of smoked or frozen fillets is easy. But I suggest they save a fillet, buy a bottle of ice wine and make a day of it with a picnic along the Eyak River or Orca Inlet to the west.

The nearby Copper River Delta is another good day tour with boardwalks for viewing moose, bears, fox and other wildlife. Each spring, the delta is the Western Hemisphere’s major stopover for the largest shorebird migration in the world.

If your clients want to catch their own fish, Cordova offers plenty of pull-offs for fishing, and more miles of water than anyone can fish in a lifetime. Fishing in this region is every bit as good as the expensive fisheries found in Bristol Bay. Fishing charters for halibut up to 400 pounds, sharks, cod, char, trout and salmon are available from June through September. The city becomes robust with activity during the August and September silver salmon season. At times, I’ve caught and released over 40 silver salmon in a day.

Cordova Auto Rentals is conveniently located at the airport and provides vehicles and inside touring information to keep visitors busy for a week.

Fishing and Flying Air Service can fly people to Kayak Island, where Russian explorers first set foot on North American soil.

For a central location, Orca Cannery and Adventure Lodge is a revated cannery-turned-modern first-class lodge that offers great package/tour prices for travel agents. Sea kayaking, hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing are 50 yards from the lodge’s front door along the Orca Inlet. Clients can expect to see sea otters floating on their backs, crunching on a breakfast of crab. Here’s a tip: Book a room with a balcony view for your guests. They won’t be disappointed with the view or the fresh ocean breeze. The lodge’s meals are all-you-can-eat, and the seafood main dishes like grilled king salmon with raspberry sauce and appetizers created by chef Denise are worth the visit.

Orca’s remote wilderness cabins are perhaps its best-kept secret. Dig clams, beachcomb, raft, swim and explore an abandoned mining town. The region was a jumping-off point for many searching for Alaskan gold and riches in the early 1900s.

While Cordova isn’t on the main Alaska tour route, you’ll find profit in its diverse tours and accommodations, and your clients will find a destination that mirrors their perfect and affordable image of Alaska.


Cordova Auto Rentals

Orca Adventure Lodge

Fishing and Flying Air Service

Cordova Chamber of Commerce