Wednesday morning (7/19) we went to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center to learn more about the largest National Park in the USA.  Did you know that Wrangell-St. Elias is six times larger than Yellowstone?  The park is larger than Switzerland, and with higher mountains.  Wrangell-St. Elias National Park borders Kluane National Park in neighboring British Columbia.  Combined, the two parks have ten of the fifteen tallest mountains in North America. Then we drove south toward Valdez on the Richardson Highway, following the western edge of the park with views of the Wrangell mountain range.  The drive between Glennallen and Valdez offered some of the best scenery of our entire trip, to-date.  We made several stops along the way, including a short walk to view Worthington Glacier. 

Mountains and fast flowing glacial streams abound along the Richardson Highway.
This view of Worthington Glacier was actually better than from the designated viewing platform.
Green lush rolling hills and rugged sawtooth ridges were viewable from the road.
Keystone Canyon, just outside of Valdez, has multiple waterfalls. This one is called Bridal Veil Falls.

We arrived in Valdez in the evening and checked into another all gravel, Alaska style cramped RV Park (The Valdez RV Park).  However, we got a back row site with great views of the Valdez mudflats and nearby mountains.  Laurie saw a black bear wander through the adjacent field in the evening!  This small town is easily walkable and with wonderful mountain views in almost every direction. 

Valdez quickly became our favorite Alaska town, so far.
The harbor is picturesque with turquoise colored water under a backdrop of mountains.

Thursday (7/20), Steve decided to go on the Lu Lu Belle Glacier Wildlife Tour (Laurie stayed on shore with Lucy since she wasn’t ready to get back on a boat, yet).  This all-day tour is known for providing up close views of wildlife and glaciers.  The perfect weather and calm seas facilitated a spectacular day.  Steve got to see sea otters, sea lions, seals, eagles, puffins, mountain goats and Orca whales.  The captain narrated the trip with informative stories about the area history and wildlife.  We also got a close up view of a fishing vessel bringing in their purse seine net full of pink salmon.  

Opening day of commercial fishing for pink salmon meant there were many boats like this on the water.
Prince William Sound offers stunning views of mountains in every direction.
Sea Otters look comfortable floating on their backs and soaking up the sun!
A family of Mountain Goats were spotted up high on a hill along the shoreline.
Hundreds of Steller sea lions were sunning themselves along the shoreline.
Male sea lions can be up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1,500 lbs.
We were fortunate to see six Orcas swimming in pairs and feeding on salmon.

The Lu Lu Belle captain navigated the specially designed boat through the iceberg-filled waters of Columbia Bay to get us close to the Columbia Glacier.  I witnessed a few large chunks of ice calving off of the glacier and crashing into the bay (but I missed the chance to get a photo or video).  The captain turned off the engines and everyone fell silent to listen to the cracking ice in the afternoon sun.

Columbia Glacier is more than 3.5 miles wide and is the second largest Tidewater Glacier in North America.
The captain of the Lu Lu Bell skillfully navigated past large icebergs to get us close to the face of the glacier.
It was cold at the face of the glacier! Temps were below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

On Friday (7/21), we took our time in the morning.  After leaving the RV Park, we visited a nice dog park in Valdez so Lucy could get some much needed, off-leash play time. After, we toured both buildings of the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive for a significant dose of local history. We learned about the Exxon Valdez spill, the impact of the 1962 earthquake and the town’s role in the Klondike gold rush.  We also enjoyed another wonderful meal of fresh halibut at Mike’s Palace, downtown by the harbor.   We were killing time, waiting for the high tide to return.  When it did, we drove out to the nearby Solomon Gulch Salmon Fish Hatchery to watch the sea lions feasting on the schools of pink salmon returning to spawn.  This was a unique experience.  

People gather near the Solomon Gulch Salmon Hatchery to watch the wildlife. The dark areas in the water near shore are schools of pink salmon.
Pink salmon that were raised at this hatchery return from the Gulf of Alaska to spawn.
The abundant pink salmon food source attracts many sea lions to this area.
The sea lions swim along the edge of the schooled-up fish and easily grab as many as they want.
The sea lions grab a fish and then shake violently, sometimes breaking the salmon in half.
The sea lion will sometimes flip the fish around and swallow it whole.
After the sea lions gorge themselves at the all-u-can-eat salmon buffet, they take a nap right in the water and rest for a while. Then, they go right back to eating more fish. What a life!

In the evening, we left Valdez and drove back up the spectacular Richardson Highway, once again enjoying the mountain vistas.  We traveled all the way back to Glennallen, where we enjoyed another tasty meal at Ernesto’s, (a place recommended by Dave & Mindy).  We spent an uneventful night at the nearby Northern Nights RV Park in Glenallen.  On Saturday (7/22) we will head north to Tok.  Then we plan to cross the border back into British Columbia and head toward Haines, AK.  

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5 thoughts on “Valdez”

  1. Hope your going to Skagway, the White Pass & Youkon Railway and the Red Onion Saloon are a must see! I’m so enjoying your travels. Give Laurie a hug for me.

    1. Thanks, Irene. Funny you should make that comment, as we were trying to decide earlier today if we still want to go to Skagway. It’s on the schedule, so per your suggestion we will try to go there! Glad you are enjoying our website.

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