7 Things to Do in Cordova
1. Go for an Adventure
Summertime in Cordova is an adventurer’s haven. Start the day on the water: paddle around Orca Inlet with kayaks rented from a local outfitter or arrange a guided tour. Guides can take travelers to the best paddling locations, depending on current conditions the day of their trip.
Look to the Copper River for another adventure. The river offers both calm floats and whitewater-rafting thrills. Travelers can find a guided option that suits their needs, whether they want to spend a half-day in a raft or commit to a multi-day float that incorporates other activities.
Those who want to stay on land can hike the trails or plan a night of camping. U.S. Forest Service cabins can be reached by foot on the McKinley Lake Trail, Pipeline Lakes Trail, and Power Creek Trail. Winter travelers have the added option of skiing or snowboarding. Mount Eyak is home to a single chairlift and 30 different trails. Thrill-seekers can also board a helicopter for backcountry heli-skiing or snowboarding adventures at the top of the mountain.
2. Visit Childs Glacier & The Million Dollar Bridge
Located at the end of the Copper River Highway, these sites, one man-made and one nature-made, are equally impressive and worth the trip. Though a bridge on the highway is currently washed out and the Million Dollar Bridge is no longer accessible by road, the wonders are still accessible via boat. Tour companies in Cordova regularly update their tours to keep up with the ever-changing Copper River.
After a scenic boat ride up the river, visitors arrive at Childs Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge. The four-span trestle was completed in 1910 and was only put out of commission after Alaska’s 1964 earthquake. The bridge has been rehabilitated, and visitors are free to walk across it for views of Childs Glacier on one end and Miles Glacier on the other.
3. Cast a Line
From freshwater salmon and trout fishing to saltwater charters, anglers can be confident they’ll be able to catch the fish they’ve been dreaming of in Cordova. Along the road system, there are multiple places to stop and cast a line. Fish Clear Creek, Ibeck Creek, and the Eyak River for the chance to catch sockeye salmon, silver salmon, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden.
For a chance to reel in halibut or silver salmon that have not swum upstream yet to spawn, book an ocean fishing charter. The waters of Orca Inlet, Simpson Bay, and Sheep Bay offer the opportunity to catch halibut, rockfish, lingcod, and more.
Charters leave from Cordova’s small boat harbor and return with boats full of fish for travelers to take home. Operators can provide a convenient place to process the catch or even process it themselves and ship it home for you.
4. See Even More Glaciers
There are a few glaciers in the area that are easy to reach and worth the trip. These glaciers can be accessed directly from the road system—no helicopter or boats required. To reach the stunning views at Saddleback Glacier, depart at mile 25 of the Copper River Highway to locate the easy 3-mile trail that winds through cottonwoods and spruce before emerging at Saddlebag Lake. The glacier, surrounded by peaks and cliffs, regularly calves, sending icebergs into the lake. Hike in and spend the day enjoying the view and watching for wildlife.
Another easy-to-access glacier is the Sheridan Glacier. Follow the short access road at mile 15 that ends at a picnic area with partial views of the glacier. Walk the 1-mile trail across a glacial moraine to reach even better views. Local outfitters provide tour options that include guided trips to the glacier and even the opportunity to kayak around the lake for closer views.
5. Experience History
The nomadic Eyak people were the first to settle in the Cordova area, which served as a trade center for the various tribes of the region. From then to now, a lot has changed in Cordova, but its location has always been key.
In 1889, commercial fishermen built the first cannery in town, and the city really boomed when it was chosen as the end of the railway line to connect Kennecott copper mines to the north. All this history and more can be experienced at the Cordova Historical Museum and the Ilanka Cultural Center Museum. The museum covers local marine life, early history from the railroad days, and a three-seat bidarka (kayak) made from spruce pine and sealskin. There is also an exhibit dedicated to the beloved ice worm.
The cultural center exhibits all the prehistoric, historical, and contemporary indigenous history of the area with artifacts found around Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta, including a whale skeleton hanging in the lobby.
6. Attend a Local Festival
Cordova festivals are all about the wildlife. Every February since 1961, Cordova has honored the ice worm at its annual Iceworm Festival. It may sound made up, but the insect is just as real as the weeklong festival. Some highlights of the event are the crowing of Miss Iceworm, the parade, and the Survival Suit Race, where brave participants get outfitted with a survival suit before jumping into the harbor.
In May, Cordova celebrates the largest migration in the country during the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. More than 5 million shorebirds pass through the Copper River Delta as they fly to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Birders from all over the world come to the festival to attend presentations and workshops by international experts and spend time at prime bird viewing areas.
Finally, in mid-July, when the Copper River salmon run is coming through Cordova, celebrate with the Copper River Salmon Jam. The city comes alive with art fairs, music, road races, and lots of food.
7. Explore the Wildlife-Rich Wilderness
Direct access to the ocean means that visitors in Cordova have a good chance of spotting marine wildlife. Seals and sea otters commonly make an appearance in the small boat harbor. Some harbor seals even travel all the way up the Egg Island Channel and can be spotted in the freshwater Eyak Lake. More wildlife to be found on Eyak Lake includes Canada geese, harlequin ducks, and trumpeter swans.
For even more wildlife viewing opportunities, hop in the car and travel the road system. Stop frequently to look and listen for the sounds of wildlife. Many species of birds make the area’s wetlands their summer home. Even hummingbirds make the migratory flight this far north and can be seen buzzing around.
For bear, salmon, and eagle viewing all in one spot, hang out around the creeks and streams when the salmon are swimming upstream to spawn. Keep an eye out for moose in the area as well.
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