Reservations 877·97·CRAFT  (877·972·7238)

Valdez, Alaska

Nicknamed the "Switzerland of Alaska," Valdez is situated at the end of a deep fjord in northeast Prince William Sound and encircled on three sides by the Chugach Mountains.  The Chugach Mountains have hundreds of glaciers, a few reachable around Valdez. Valdez was named in 1790 for the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdez y Basan.  In 1898, it became a disembarkation point for miners hoping to reach the Klondike gold rush only to find there was no overland trail. The building of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline in the 1970s boosted Valdez' population significantly. Today, Valdez marks the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which takes crude oil from arctic Alaska to Valdez's ice-free harbor for onward transportation by oil tanker. 


On March 27, 1964, Valdez was hit by tsunamis following the Good Friday 9.2 earthquake that originated some 15 miles beneath Prince William Sound. The tsunamis caused the deaths of some 32 residents and resulted in the relocation of the town some four miles west on higher ground over several years. On Good Friday in 1989, the Exxon supertanker Valdez struck Bligh Reef, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, contaminating 1,300 miles of pristine coastline.  According to Scientific American, the spill also caused the death of some 2,000 sea otters, 302 harbor seals, and about 250,000 seabirds in the days immediately following the spill. In the thirty years since the accident, some wildlife populations have recovered while some still struggle, and efforts continue to address the longterm effects in this scenic masterpiece. The May 2019 visit by the MS Maasdam marks the first visit by a cruise ship in many years.