Out & About in Cordova

We took Monday morning off, taking advantage of a rainy day to decompress after a busy weekend. Around midday, we drove into Cordova for lunch and a putter around the town and surrounding environs.

Back in 1790, a Spanish explorer named the strait “Córdoba,” and the town was named after the strait’s original name. (The inlet’s name was changed to “Orca Strait” at some point. The town was founded in 1906, after the discovery of high grade copper in the mountains to the north. Kennecott developed the mine and a train line was created up the Copper River valley to transport ore to Cordova for shipping.  

Today, Cordova is a commercial and sport fishing hub, with 5 species of Pacific salmon comiong back to the area at different times over the summer and fall  to spawn. Fishing is carefully managed to maintain sustainable populations and to keep the quality (and price) of Copper River Salmon high.  The harbor is filled with fishing boats of different sizes, which use different techniques to capture different species, and the town has several canneries processing  fish.

Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon are captured with gill nets, operated from 1-2 person boats. The net’s opening are sized to capture large male fish, allowing the smaller females to swing through to deposit their eggs. Fish are handpicked out of the mesh as the nets are hauled on board.

Sockeye and Pink Salmon are commerically fished with purse seine nets with 3-4 person boats. Circular seine nets are stretched  acround an area where salmon are spawning, then drawn up around the school like a purse.

We decided to have lunch in town, only to find that (a) many of Cordova’s restaurants and cafes were permanently closed and (b) those not permanently closed were not open on Mondays. So lunch was at the only game in town: Baja Taco.   We liked its funky vibe and the food was good.

After lunch, we popped into the supermarket.

After lunch we drove through town and down the peninsula to Hartney Bay, a vast tidal wetland and birding hot spot. The annual Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival is held here in May, celebrating a stopover by ~ 5 million birds (like western sandpipers and dunlin) who migrate from their winter homes in the south to breeding grounds in Alaska. We saw nice vistas, but few birds.

The Cordova area was historically home to the native Eyak people, and much of the area around Cordova, including Hartney Bay, is owned by the Eyak Native Corporation.  Living on the such rich fishing grounds, the Eyak were often raided by the larger tribe of Chugach people on the the west, while trading and intermarrying with the Tlingit people on the east.  The combination of  diseases introduced by European settlers and competition with American canneries nearly wiped out the population in the 19th century.  Villages around Eyak Lake were abandoned as people died and survivors moved to Orca. 

We drove along the shore of vast Eyak Lake, birding and visiting sites that once hosted Eyak villages.

We stopped and tried to take a walk around Nirvana Park, but a heavy rain shower stopped our visit. This site holds both an Eyak cemetery and the faint remains of what was once a large “folly,” a park with bridges and gazebos made from branches. Only the park’s paths remain today.

The skies cleared on Monday evening, with glorious views back at Orca Lodge.

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3 thoughts on “Out & About in Cordova”

  1. Feel like very I’m almost walking 8 steps behind as your descriptions and photos capture so much. Keep ‘em coming.

  2. Thank you for another armchair vacation. Part of Kim’s bucket list travels when he had his first cancer was Alaska.


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