Thursday, July 17, 2014


It took us two days to drive the 500 miles from Ninilchik to Valdez.  The first 200 miles to Palmer was backtracking on the same road we took to get to the Kenai because it is the only road.  That is often the case in Alaska.  There are so few roads that on some days the only direction on the GPS was arrive at destination in 250 miles.  Most of the first day the road was fine with only one section of very narrow mountain driving on the Glenn Highway.  On day two there were long stretches of road with frost heaves on both the Glenn and Richardson.  This was the worst road we have encountered since the Alaska Highway in Yukon.  Our plan for our three day stay in Valdez was to take a glacier cruise and I hoped to get one more shot at the salmon.
The highway around Turnagain Arm was very busy. It seemed like every person in Anchorage was going to or coming from the Kenai.  The Alaska Railroad track runs parallel to the highway.
We stayed in the parking lot at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site.  There was a beautiful view of the glacier.  This was the first of many glaciers we would see in the next couple of days. 
There is a great view of the Wrangell St. Elias mountains even though the tall peaks were covered by clouds.
The Worthington Glacier almost comes down to the road..
Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone Canyon.  The canyon was named by Captain William Abercrombie in honor of his home state, Pennsylvania.
Our view from Opus in Valdez.
Within an hour one afternoon a black bear ran across the field and an eagle landed where we could see them from our living room.
We did a tour with Stan Stephens Cruises to the Columbia Glacier.  The Northwestern, from Deadliest Catch, was anchored in the Port Valdez inlet.  It was waiting to off load salmon from the smaller fishing boats so the small boats did not have to return to Valdez.   At this time there was no fishing because fish and game had a temporary moratorium on catching salmon until the numbers increased. 
We saw a lot of wildlife including several bald eagles high in the trees looking for fish.
Check out the orange feet on these pigeon guillemots.  They are birds that dive for fish.
As we turned into Columbia Bay we began to see a lot of icebergs and growlers floating in the water.  Some of them were this beautiful blue.
Because of the way the wind was blowing the water was clear enough of ice that we could get a close look at the glacier.  You could hear the small growlers against the side of the boat.
The glacier is now divided into three different flows where it enters the water.  At that point the water in the bay is 1000 feet deep.  But huge icebergs like this one are too deep to get into Prince William Sound because the depth at the moraine where the glacier ended before starting to recede is only 40 feet.
Another berg from a different part of the glacier.  Before it receded the glacier was ten miles across at the water.  At present the glacier is from 50 to 250 feet high.
The two rocks on each side of the pictures is where the glaciers ended as recently as 2005.  It sure is receding quickly. You can see the three parts of the glacier coming off the mountain.
A bunch of sea otters sunning on a small ice flow.  You don't usually see them out of the water.
These two otters seemed to be checking us out.
There were hundreds of  steller sea lions on Glacier Island.  They are mostly immature males and females.  At high tide there is not enough room for all of them so many were in the water.
This one came right up to the boat and gave us a smile.
We saw many puffins but only got a couple of pictures of these fast moving birds.
The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline ends in Valdez so there are oil tankers coming in and out of the port.  It only takes about 20 hours to fill a tanker.  Since the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in 1989, all tankers must be accompanied by two tugs.  The tugs are powerful enough to stop a tanker within its length if it would lose power.  This ship is a medium size tanker.
On the way back to Valdez we spotted a humpback whale.  The captained turned the boat and  extended the tour so we could watch it.  We saw the hump and then the fluke when it came up for air.  Very neat!!!!
Valdez is not just a tourist stop but also a big fishing port.  In addition to the boats in the harbor, many were anchored in the inlet waiting for the word that salmon fishing was allowed.  
Every evening when the salmon are running the many birds, sea lions and bears gather around the hatchery to gorge themselves.  These sea lions looked like rocks in the water when we first walked up.  When they get a fish the gulls moved in for the scraps.  Unfortunately, the evening we went the bear did not show up while we were there.
There were at least 12 eagles that arrived as the tide went out.
This big one came in and picked up a fish right in front of us.  With the sea lions bellowing and the eagles soaring it was like a National Geographic movie even with out the bears.  Don't miss this if you come to Valdez.
I was told that the best time and place to fish was a couple hours before low tide near the hatchery.  So at 9:30 AM Nanc and I headed to Allison Point on the other side of the port.  After watching to see what other fishermen were using I tried my luck.  Here you are allowed to use a treble hook and snag the fish anywhere, not just in the mouth like on the Kenai River.   After a few misses I caught my first salmon (top left).  In no time at all I had it mastered and...........
within an hour I had my limit if six pinks.  There were so many fish I think it would have been impossible to not catch a limit.  Unlike other salmon, if you want to keep pinks for a long time you have to can them.  We don't have a pressure cooker to do that but when I was cleaning the fish Paul, a local who is a professional fish cleaner, told me it was OK to freeze them if you use them within three or four weeks.  So it looks like we will be eating a lot of salmon for the next month.


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Nice fish and a great post!

Mollie said...

Hooray! Sounds like you've had a great time. Larry FINALLy caught 2 salmon this a.m. but the netters are really stopping the flow. Great report.