Port of Cordova
Review and History

The Port of Cordova is located on Prince William Sound in Alaska about 240 kilometers southeast of Anchorage. Lying near the mouth of the Copper River at the head of the Orca Inlet, the Port of Cordova is about 67 nautical miles south-southeast of the Port of Valdez and some 700 kilometers northwest of the Port of Juneau. In 2005, the Port of Cordova was home to 2327 people.

The Port of Cordova can be reached by plane or boat. It is connected to the shipping lanes of the Pacific Ocean through the Gulf of Alaska. The Port of Cordova economy is based on fishing and canning (especially of salmon). It also relies on some tourism, but the mainstay of the local economy is the Port of Cordova's large fishing fleet. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill caused a near-collapse of the Port of Cordova's economy. Many local businesses closed, and many residents had to leave the town to make a living.

Port History

The Aleut and Eyak peoples inhabited the area of the future Port of Cordova before Europeans arrived to settle there. They were visited for trade and for war by the Ahtna and Tlingit peoples.

Spanish explorer Don Salvador Fidalgo named Orca Inlet "Puerto Cordova" after the city in Spain when he entered the harbor in 1790. It was 1884 before prospectors settled the Port of Cordova. In 1902, one of the first oil fields discovered in Alaska was found about 76 kilometers southeast of the Port of Cordova in Katalla. The oil field produced until a fire brought it down in 1933.

In 1906, the Copper River and Northwestern Railway arrived, and the Port of Cordova became the terminus for copper ore coming from the Kennicott mines up the Copper River. The first ore was loaded onto the Northwestern steamship in 1911 to go to a smelter in Tacoma, Washington. The Kennicott mines took more than $200 million in gold, silver, and copper until they closed in 1938.

From 1915 until 1964, the Port of Cordova was the Razor Clam Capital of the World, bringing in as many as three million pounds at its peak. Catches started shrinking in the 1950s, apparently because of over-harvesting. When the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake created unimaginable damage across Alaska, it brought the razor clam industry to an end in the Port of Cordova when thrust the ground up as much as six feet, exposing the clam beds. While some work is being done to restore the clam beds, the industry a memory to Port of Cordova residents.

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