Scenic USA - Alaska

Valdez Harbor

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Valdez Harbor - Alaska

Photos by Dan Kehlenbach
Dan Kehlenbach Photography

   Valdez, a small city of 4000 people, seems to have a penchant for big events. Incorporated in 1901, this central Alaska harbor town made world news when a Whale Breech - Valdez Harbor, Alaska major quake hit on Good Friday, 1964. The earthquake, measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale, visibly shook 80,000 square miles and produced a 25 foot high tsunami, destroying the waterfront at Valdez.
   The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill catastrophe was as one of the most extensive environmental disasters until it was dwarfed by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. Here at the Valdez Harbor, the end terminal of an engineering marvel (the Alaska pipeline), saw the oil tanker Exxon Valdez leave the dock at 9:12 pm March 23rd. Three hours later, the tanker struck Bligh Reef, spilling over 10 million gallons of Alaskan crude that quickly spread over the Knight Island Chain. Because of its remote location, clean-up proved difficult and led to Bridal Veil Falls - Valdez, Alaska frustration, disputes and plenty of finger pointing. Images of helpless shore birds, covered in oil, stand as a constant reminder of the price man will pay for modern living.
   Today, the Valdez economy is still based on oil, with tourism and fishing rounding out the job base. Tour guides provide services for snowshoeing trips, wildlife tours, glacier and kayaking excursions. The Chugach Mountains stand out in this scene, surrounding the harbor with a dramatic backdrop. Although topped with the 13,176 foot Mount Marcus Baker, the range is not generally high. Rising quickly from sea level, the mountains are positioned to catch records amounts of snowfall that made an ideal location for the World Extreme Skiing Championships.

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