From Anchorage, spend a week exploring the scenery and birds of Prince William Sound. More than 200 species of birds are found in the region. Bald eagles are plentiful along the treetops and shorelines. Among the estimated 200,000 seabirds that summer in the sound are marbled murrelets, black-legged kittiwakes, and glaucous-winged gulls. Though rugged and wild, the sound is easy to access. The Alaska Marine Highway provides year-round service linking Whittier, Cordova and Valdez.
Anchorage to Cordova (+)
Anchorage to Cordova (-)
Drive from Anchorage to Whittier and then take the ferry through Prince William Sound to Cordova. The sound is made up of many deep fjords with tidewater glaciers and islands around every turn. Let the Alaska Marine Highway take care of everything for you. Your car, RV, motorcycle or bicycle will be safely stowed on the car deck while you relax in the main cabin. Step outside for some fresh air, the covered solarium is heated and provides spectacular views of the passing landscape. Food and beverage service is available, including hot and cold options.
Cordova — Alaska's Hidden Treasure (+)
Cordova — Alaska's Hidden Treasure (-)
Cordova is the gateway to the Copper River Delta. This 700,000 acre wedge of wetlands surrounds the Copper River's outlet into the Gulf of Alaska, reaching from the ocean to the Chugach Mountains. The Chugach National Forest, managed by the US Forest Service, surrounds Cordova. Before setting out, stop by the Forest Service office to ask about recent sightings. The Cordova Historical Museum also keeps a binder of local birding information at the front desk. You need not go far to spot wildlife in Cordova, but having a vehicle will greatly expand your opportunities to explore one of North America's largest and most important wetlands. About 25 miles down the Copper River Highway, take Alaganik Road to Alaganik Slough. This pleasant wetlands walk takes viewers across marshlands to look and listen for birds and other wildlife. Don't wait until you reach the boardwalk to start looking for birds. On your drive down Alaganik Road, you might spot a short-eared owl alighting in the middle of the road or a northern harrier gliding low over the ground. Drive out to Eyak Lake and watch for dusky Canada geese, which nest only on the Copper River Delta. Lake life also includes common mergansers, harlequin ducks and bald eagles. Be sure to make frequent stops during the drive to look for wildlife. Plan your trip in early May in time for the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. The festival includes environmental education, art workshops, quilting, bird walks and more. See the beauty and grandeur of Prince William Sound and the Copper River Delta.
Valdez — Even Mother Nature Has Favorites (+)
Valdez — Even Mother Nature Has Favorites (-)
Then, take the ferry from Cordova to Valdez. This ferry ride, will give you a taste for the wildlife and scenery that are in Prince William Sound. For a closer look, book a day cruise with one of the local sightseeing operators to the Columbia Glacier area for close-up views of Heather Bay, icebergs, and a large variety of seabirds, including red-faced cormorants, surf scoters, pigeon guillemots, and horned and tufted puffins. Local companies also offer kayak trips and kayak rentals. Near the mouth of Port Valdez, Shoup Bay State Marine Park houses a black-legged kittiwake rookery as well as a tidewater glacier. Hike an overgrown foot trail or travel by boat to see oystercatchers, bald eagles, and possibly peregrine falcons. With a population of 20,000 breeding birds, the "kittiwake rock" is a noisy spectacle. In June and July, quiet paddlers may observe adults and chicks. Close to town, the Duck Flats is popular for birding. Harlequin ducks, Arctic terns, red-necked grebes, and great blue herons are possible sightings. The Forest Service station across the street is a good place to stop for recent information on sightings. As you leave Valdez and drive back to Anchorage, take your time on Thompson Pass particularly between miles 4 and 10. The pass is a major breeding area for ground-nesting white-crowned sparrows. Other common summer songbirds in the region include black-capped chickadees, golden-crowned sparrows, pine siskins, gray-crowned rosy-finches, and fox sparrows. You can also see ravens, northwestern crows, magpies, and northern shovelers.