Anchorage – Whittier – Cordova

Sunday was transfer day, as we left Anchorage for our next port of call in Cordova. Getting there was a 2-stage journey.  We first climbed aboard the Glacier Discovery train, following the same route across the Kenai Peninsula as the day before, but changing tracks at Portage to reach Whittier on the east coast.  From Whittier, we traveled 7 hours by ferry along the Alaska Marine Highway System to Cordova, where we were booked for the next 5 nights.

We saw a black bear and two groups of Dall Sheep from the train. After Portage, the route was mostly through tunnels, including the 2 mile long Anton Anderson Tunnel, where cars and trains alternate in using the same tracks.   I wasn’t able to get a picture inside this very narrow tunnel, but here’s one from the Anchorage Daily News.

Anton anderson tunnel 10.jpg.

Whittier is a tiny town (permanent popultion less than 300) whose reason for existence is its location on Prince William Sound. It was built by the U.S. Army as a secret military base during World War II. The port stays ice free year round but its inaccessible by land and its near constant cloud coverage (thanks to the surrounding 3500 feet peaks) made it the ideal location for secret defense doings.  The Army retained control of the port until 1960.

On arrival, we walked past the harbor to the ferry terminal.

Boats in the harbor vastly outnumber residents in the town.

Once on board, we found the ferry to be comfortable and clean, with multiple seating areas and a cafeteria serving surprisingly good food.

We had lunch and dinner on board. The cafeteria serves sandiwches, salads and snacks, plus a grill where you can order hot food. Portion sizes were huge. During our voyage, the specials included corned beef and cabbage (which sold out immediately) and the largest T-bone streaks I have seen in years (also a popular entree).

For the first several hours, we traveled down the middle of the strait, with snow covered mountains and occasional glaciers visible on the far shores. We spotted many, many otters floating serenely along as we passed, and two pods of orcas – one of which came very close to our boat. (Rolling deck and fast divers = no photos.)

Screens in the main seating area provided real time tracking of the ferry’s position.

This ferry originated at Valdez, north of Whittier. Passengers embarking from that port had already been on the ferry for six hours when it docked in Whittier. People can bring sleeping gear on boarrd, including pitching tents on the outside deck.

Rope braiding taken to an art form.

The views became more interesting as we traveled down the east side of Prince Willam Sound approaching Cordova.

Cordova, population < 2800, is the main port on the east side of Prince Willaim Sound. It sits on the Orca Inlet, sheltered from the main waterway by two large islands and is only accessible by boat or airplane.

We were booked for 5 nights at the Orca Adventure Lodge, located about 3 miles out of town on the site of a former fish cannery.

The ferry docked about 8:30 pm and we trundled up and down ramps to an adjacent parking lot to collect our rental vehicle, helpfully left for unlocked for us, with keys under the visor. (After all, where would a thief go?)

A bald eagle greeted us on arrival at the Orca Lodge.

The Orca Adventure Lodge is all that remains of Orca, a salmon cannery town that operated here from the 1880s.  The New England Fish operation was the largest cannery in the area, processing Prince William Sound salmon into one pound cans that were shipped all over  the world.  The cannery operated into the 1980s, then shut down following a botulism scare caused by improperly sealed salmon cans. The current owners, Steve and Wendy Ranney, purchased the property at a bargain price and transformed the cannery complex into a friendly, family style 40-room inn with a restaurant, coffee shop, sauna and lots of comfortable spaces to hang out indoors and out. They offer a variety of recreational outings, including guided hikes, boat rides and kayak adventures. Likie everything in Cordova, the lodge is very low key.

Interesting artifacts are tucked into nooks and crannies throughout the lodge.

Remnants of cannery equipment are scattered around the complex. The lodge is very popular with sports fishers, who can have their catch processed, frozen and packed for shipping in the old cannery building.

Tired from another long day, we retired to our rooms to try to sleep in the perpetual nighttime twilight.


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2 thoughts on “Anchorage – Whittier – Cordova”

  1. Excellent as always, Joni! Bob and I spent several weeks each summer on the Kenai Peninsula, so this brings memories!

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