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Cordova, Alaska: A Jewel in the Stunning Alaskan Wilderness

Tucked away on the eastern coast of Prince William Sound, Cordova is the ideal location for your next big Alaska adventure. This city of 2,300 perfectly exemplifies the natural beauty of the state and features a wide spectrum of fun and educational things to do. Locals and travelers alike use phrases like “intentionally off the beaten path” and “worth the journey”, when speaking about Cordova. This is a city that will give you an Alaska experience you won't find in many other locations. Follow your favorite travel guides at as we take a close look at this one-of-a-kind community in the stunning Alaskan wilderenss.


Cordova has a long and storied history that dates back to the Eyak people, the original inhabitants of the area. They lived, survived and thrived in the area for 10,000 years before any other settlers made their way into the Alaskan wilderness. In 1889, the first outside settlers arrived. They sought to take advantage of the great local fishing, and built the area's first cannery. The city didn’t see a big population boom until 1911, when the Copper River & Northwestern Railway came to town. They used Cordova as a terminus for trains that were transporting copper ore from the Kennecott Mine near McCarthy. Cordova saw tremendous economic growth during this time that lasted until 1938, when the mines were closed and the trains stopped running.


In addition to the mining boom of the early 20th century, another unique industry took root in Cordova: the razor clam industry. From 1916 until 1958, Cordova was known as “The Razor Clam Capital of the World”. Harvesting a few million pounds of clams per year helped pick up where the mining industry left off, but due to overfishing and the massive 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the clam industry was dealt a fatal blow. The resilient city rebounded from their misfortunes and focused on the fishing industry. The PWS herring fishery, which thrived and supported the area until 1989, was also lost almost 25 years to the day after the earthquake, when tragedy befell the city once again. Northwest of Cordova, on Bligh Reef in Prince William sound, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground and caused one of the worst ecological disasters of all time. This event decimated the local ecosystem and the local economy. After years of clean up, a little compensation by Exxon, and a lot of dedication from the local residents, Cordova once again became a jewel in the vast Alaskan wilderness. Cordova is now known for it's prized Copper River Salmon, recognized all over the world for its superior quality and taste.


Upon arriving in town you’ll find a friendly and tight knit community that welcomes visitors who appreciate nature and the subsistence lifestyle that is common place in Cordova. Although the primary industry is still commerical fishing, the residents here take great pride in providing for themselves and for the community. This deep sense of community and self reliance come from the traditions passed down by native tribes that originally inhabited the area, and from years of overcoming hardship after hardship. While there is a blend of cultures in town, the preservation of the native culture takes a prominent place in the everyday life of the citizens of Cordova. Many traditions and practices are still observed today, and locations like the Ilanka Cultural Center give you a hands-on learning experience about the people who thrived here for over 10,000 years.


Cordova is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. From rainforests to glaciers, this place has it all. The city is located in the expansive Chugach National Forest, an area perfect for a slew of outdoor activities including hiking, photography, ATV riding, mountain biking, wildlife viewing or just exploring the vast wilderness at your own pace. Cordova has world-class hiking with US Forest Service trails and cabins for all types of outdoor enthusiasts. Multiple glaciers, including the Saddlebag and Sheridan, can be found in close proximity to town. The active and stunning Childs Glacier is still accessible by means of a short airboat ride, and worth the extra mile.


Fans of skiing and snowboarding will love a trip to Mt. Ekak Ski Area, a great option located right in town. Home to the world’s oldest operating chair lift (a transplant from Sun Valley Ski Resort in Idaho), Mt. Eyak’s main access up the mountain is a fun and historic way to get up and ski down. This ski resort will appeal to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. If you're looking for some maritime fun, Cordova will more than deliver. Between the waters of Lake Eyak and the inlets of Prince William Sound, you’ll find ideal conditions for boating, kayaking and tours exploring the beautiful coastline. The local rivers are perfect for canoeing, kayaking and if you're feeling comfortable with your skills, you can hit the tougher rapids for some great whitewater adventures.


While the outdoor activities take center stage, Cordova has much more to offer visitors. The closeness of the community makes local events and festivals can't-miss gatherings for everyone in the area. The year’s first big event takes place in February. The Iceworm Festival is a week-long event filled with fun activities; they even crown a Miss Iceworm!


The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival festival takes place each May and celebrates the migration of over five million shorebirds to their arctic breeding grounds. The festival is chock full of great presentations, workshops, and the opportunity for some of the best bird viewing anywhere. With a pie social, kelp box derby, and free community BBQ, Cordova’s Old Time Fourth of July festivities are a fun and nostalgic trip back in time. The Copper River Wild Salmon Festival, held each July, allows you to find and experience all things salmon, plus live music, art fairs, games, running events, kids activities and tons of delicious food. Every fall, you can try your hand at mushrooming at the Cordova Fungus Festival, and the Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Bazaar in early December offers a festive break from Alaska’s long dark nights.


Aside from the festivals, events, and outdoor activities, there are some great things to do indoors during a trip to Cordova. Let's start with the previously mentioned Ilanka Cultural Center. The real 24 foot long Orca whale skeleton hanging overhead and variety of native craft and history exhibits give you an up-close cultural lesson about the native inhabitants and animals who have lived here for thousands of years. Stop by the brand new Cordova Center for a peek at the The Cordova Historical Museum, which offers the opportunity to learn all about the rich history of the area through a series of informative exhibits, the cozy Cordova Library, and the Copper River Gallery which shows a special art exhibit every season.


The Prince William Sound Science Center is a research and educational institution interested in  “understanding how one place on earth can maintain a reliable economy and natural environment for the long term.” Check out their educational programs and classes designed to highlight this one-of-a-kind geographical region.


The friendly people and camaraderie between the residents make this city unique and great place to live. According to, Cordova is “The Safest Place to Live in Alaska” and it's almost certainly due to the involvement of the community as a whole. The school system here is one of the top in the state. The citizens of Cordova take education seriously and want the best for the young minds in their city. You may come yourself here to take in the picture perfect wilderness, but you’ll find yourself astonished by the great community and you may just end up calling Cordova your home.

For more information about Cordova as a place to visit and a place to live, please visit their website.