Discover Valdez: History

Photo by Gary MinishThe city of Valdez lies at the head of Port Valdez (pronounced "val-deez"), a natural fjord that reaches inland about 11 miles from Prince William Sound.

BEFORE 1778
Historically—as well as now—the territory south of Valdez belonged to the Alaskan Native people of the Chugach (pronounced "chew-gach") region, a maritime hunting people. To the north the land is that of the Ahtna, an Athabaskan speaking people of the Copper River Basin. Although there was no known permanent native villages in Port Valdez, it is certain that the Chugach and Ahtna did use the area for fishing and trading copper, jade, hides and other furs. The Chugach had eight principal village spread throughout the rest of Prince William Sound. Of these, only Tatitlek survives today...

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A brief history of alaska oil exploration & pipeline development. The presence of crude oil on Alaska's North Slope was suspected for more than a century. In 1968, Atlantic Richfield Company and Humble Oil (now Exxon) confirmed the presence of a vast oil field at Prudhoe Bay. Within a year, plans were under way for a pipeline. Visiting the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline In 1970 environmental...
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Keystone Canyon - Photo Courtesy Bearfoot Guides
When driving into Valdez, you will pass through Keystone Canyon. It is a place of spectacular waterfalls, magnificent geology and fascinating history. Keystone Canyon is located at miles 14 through 17 on the Richardson Highway. From 1910 to 1916, copper and gold mining flourished in the Valdez area. There were attempts to build a railroad through the canyon and into the copper country. Rival...
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Mrs. Dowling, Mrs. Anne Barrett, Miss Lillian Moore — these women and 60 others joined the Valdez Gold Rush.  Some were married, some were adventuresome unmarried women. They were all looking for something more exciting than church socials and tea parties. Mrs. Dowling became a living legend on the trail. At Klutina Lake, she nursed an Army man stricken with typhoid back to health. About her,...
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Gold Rush of 1898
"Gold in Alaska!" "Valdez Glacier — Best Trail!" So rang the headlines in 1897-1898. Steamship companies promoted the Valdez Glacier Trail, praising it as the only All-American trail to Alaska's interior. The Copper River, they said, was on American soil. Prospectors were bound to find even more gold there than in the Klondike. It was one of the greatest hoaxes in Alaska's history. The...
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The Stamp Mill - Photo by Gary Minish
Part of Valdez's heritage is located 7 miles up beautiful Mineral Creek Canyon. Established as a result of gold fever, the same fever that gave birth to the town of Valdez, the Stamp Mill stands a tribute to the efforts of early miners to strike it rich. The Stamp Mill then and now is state owned, but it was built by W.L. Smith during the summer and winter of 1913. It took a total of two men...
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The Goat Trail - Photo by Gary Minish
W.R. Abercrombie, a Lieutenant in the US Army, was sent to Valdez with orders to find or build a road connecting Valdez to the interior of Alaska. After many searches, in 1898 he found an old native trail that began in Keystone Canyon. By 1909 the trail was widened and ran from Valdez to Eagle and was called the Military or Valdez Trail. In July 1919, the road through the Canyon was destroyed...
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The history of Valdez can be traced back to the establishment of Fort Liscum, which operated from 1900-1923, was located three miles from the head of Valdez Bay on the south shore. This fort, under the command of Lt. W.R. Abercrombie, was established to serve dual purposes: 1) to maintain law and order in the growing gold-rush establishment; and 2) to establish a military road and telegraph...
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Photo courtesy of NOAA
On Good Friday, March 24, 1989, 25 years after the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground at Bligh Reef. The vessel spilled 10.8 million gallons of unrefined Alaskan crude oil into Prince William Sound, causing the largest oil spill in North American history at the time.  No crude oil actually made it into the Port of Valdez, as Bligh Reef is about 25 miles south of...
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1964 Good Friday Earthquake
On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake ever to hit North America struck Alaska. It was the second largest earthquake ever recorded, second only to Chile in 1960, which experienced a quake of 9.5 Moment Magnitude (Mw). The epicenter of this awesome quake was a mere 45 miles west of Valdez and 14 miles under the earth's crust. Initial shocks lasting over five minutes affected nearly...
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Meteorite Mountain Valdez Alaska
ARCHIVE REPORT from The Valdez Miner, July 9, 1927; Whatever doubt may have existed as to the nature of the disturbance which occurred in Craig basin, about 15 miles from valdez, last January [1927], was set to rest last week when John DeHart and Peter Mass visited the scene, and returned with a series of photographs, 30 in number, taken by Mr. Maas, who is an expert photographer, which...
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