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Cordova, Alaska

Aerial view of Cordova, Alaska
Aerial view of Cordova, Alaska
Location of Cordova, Alaska
Location of Cordova, Alaska
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Valdez-Cordova
Incorporated July 8, 1909[1]
 • Mayor James "Jim" Kacsh[2][3]
 • Total 75.6 sq mi (195.9 km2)
 • Land 61.4 sq mi (158.9 km2)
 • Water 14.3 sq mi (37 km2)
Elevation 82 ft (25 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 2,454
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code 99574
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-17410
GNIS feature ID 1421215

Cordova is a small town located near the mouth of the Copper River in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska, United States, at the head of Orca Inlet on the east side of Prince William Sound. The population was 2,239 at the 2010 census. Cordova was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo in 1790. No roads connect Cordova to other Alaskan towns, so a plane or ferry is required to travel there. In the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 1989, an oil tanker ran aground northwest of Cordova, affecting ecology and fishing. The town and surrounding waters are affected by the biennial Northern Edge, US military training exercises.


  • History 1
  • Demographics 2
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
  • Economy 4
  • Military presence 5
  • Arts and culture 6
    • Cordova Center 6.1
  • Sports and recreation 7
  • Government 8
  • Education 9
  • Media 10
  • Transportation 11
  • Notable people 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


1910 postcard of Cordova, Alaska.

In 1790 the

  • The City of Cordova
  • The Cordova Times
  • Cordova Chamber of Commerce

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

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  25. ^ Cordova Center at
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  31. ^ Cordova Mun. Code, Alaska City Charter (2009). Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  32. ^ Cordova Mun. Code, Alaska City Charter, Article III (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  33. ^ Cordova Mun. Code, Title 5 (2009). Retrieved April 12, 2010.
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  42. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for CDV (Form 5010 PDF), effective October 10, 2008.
  43. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for CKU (Form 5010 PDF), effective September 25, 2008.


See also

Notable people

Cordova has two airports. Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport is a state-owned airport located 11 miles (17.7 km) east of the town center. It has regular jet service provided by Alaska Airlines as well as regular service by Era Aviation. Its main runway is 7500 feet (2286 m) long with an asphalt surface.[42] The Cordova Municipal Airport is 1-mile (1.8 km) from the town and is also state owned. It is located on Lake Eyak which also has a seaplane landing area. The sole runway has a length of 1,800 feet (550 m) with a gravel surface. The municipal airport is mostly used by air taxis and personal aircraft.[43]

Despite being on the mainland, Cordova is only accessible via boat or aircraft, as there is no road connecting the town to any other town. It was previously accessible by railroad however the railway is no longer in use largely due to the 1964 Good Friday earthquake and the resulting destruction it caused to the Million Dollar Bridge. The longest road is the Copper River Highway which follows the old railbed of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway for 49.5 miles (79.7 km).[39] The first 11 miles (17.7 km) north of Cordova is paved and the rest is gravel. As of the summer of 2011, vehicle traffic can only reach the 36 mile mark as changes in the river course washed out the 339 bridge.[40] The following 13.5 miles may still be accessed via a river crossing by boat.[41] Cars and trucks can be transported to Cordova by ferry. Regular ferry service is provided by the state owned, Alaska Marine Highway System to Valdez and Whittier with whistle stops (the ferry only stops if there are prior reservations) in Tatitlek and Chenega Bay. The M/V Aurora operates in Prince William Sound year round and the high-speed M/V Chenega operates the area in the summer.

M/V Fairweather, sistership to the M/V Chenega which operates in Cordova


The Cordova area is often featured in ski films by director Warren Miller.

There are three radio stations in the area. KLAM (1450 AM) began broadcasting in 1954 and generally plays classic rock, country, and news and talk shows.[36] KCDV (100.9 FM) started in 1997 and plays top hits, 80's, and 90's music. Both stations are owned by Bayview Communications Inc.[37] KCHU, based in Valdez operates a translator at 88.1 FM that serves Cordova public radio programming.[38]

Jennifer Gibbins, publisher and editor, independently owns the only newspaper for the town called the Cordova Times, established in 1914. It is published weekly and distributed every Friday at a newsstand price of $4.00.[35]


Mt. Eccles elementary school is the only public primary education facility in Cordova and had an enrollment of 206 students in 2008. Public secondary education is served by a single combined junior and senior high school. The high school had an enrollment of 205 students in 2008. The Cordova School District has 26 employed teachers.[34] Post secondary education is provided by the Prince William Sound Community College, a community campus of University of Alaska Anchorage.


The city levies a property tax as well as a 6 percent sales tax.[33]

The City of Cordova has a Council-Manager type government. The City Council is the legislative body and has 7 seats. The council is presided over by the Mayor. The Mayor is the ceremonial head of city government and has the power to veto any ordinance.[31] The city council appoints the City Manager for an indefinite term (he may be removed at anytime by the council). The City Manager is head of the administrative branch of the city government. He executes all ordinances and laws and administers the government of the city.[32]


Indoor recreation includes the Bob Korn Memorial Pool, and the Bidarki Fitness Center, which has a gym with basketball court upstairs, a weight room, and multiple spaces with cardio training equipment[30]

In the summer kayaking in Prince William Sound is popular. The Sound has more tidewater glaciers than any other region in North America.[28] 1,900,000 acres (7,700 km2) of the western Sound are designated as the Nellie Juan College Fjord Wilderness Study Area.[29]

  • Eyak River at Copper River Highway mile 5.7
  • Alaganik Slough Trail via Copper River Highway to mile 16.9; turn south on Alaganik Slough Road then follow the main road for 2.9 miles. The trail begins on the east side of the road.
  • Pipeline Lakes Trail at Copper River Highway mile 21.4
  • McKinley Lake Trail at Copper River Highway mile 21.6
  • Saddlebag Glacier Trail via Copper River Highway to mile 24.6; turn north on firewood cutting road; trail begins one mile away at the end of the road.

Hiking is available year-round on many trails. Some are within walking distance of town while many others are a leisurely drive away."Easy Trails"are

Skiing is a popular activity in the winter. The surrounding Chugach Mountains provide excellent back country ski slopes. The Mt. Eyak ski area operates a single chair ski lift and rope tow. It is the oldest working ski lift in North America.[26] The heliskiing company Points North operate out of Orca Adventure Lodge in Cordova.[27] Snowshoeing and ice skating are very popular sports around the Cordova area when conditions are right.

Sports and recreation

In late 2010, clearing the site and construction of a 33,929-square-foot (3,152.1 m2) community center, to be named the Cordova Center, began. The Cordova Center will host a new library, museum, auditorium, conference and meeting space, plus city hall offices expected to open by the fall of 2012 for the residents of Cordova.[25]

Cordova Center

The Ilanka Cultural Center museum features exhibits on Eyak, Alutiiq, Ahtna and Tlingit history and contemporary life – including artifacts, photographs, and oral histories. The 24-1/2-foot orca whale, Eyak, is one of only five fully rearticulated orca whale skeletons in the world. The Gift gallery and online store offer a wide variety of authentic crafts and merchandise – such as handcrafted seal and sea otter fur apparel, carved red and yellow cedar items, ravenstail woven purses, and beadwork from around the region. The works of many local artists are displayed at the museum. A beautiful selection of ivory, whale bone, birch bark and tufted caribou hair pieces is also available. The Cordova Ikumat Alutiiq group was formed in 1995, composed of youth and adults, and is open to anyone who wants to join; the group performs songs from the past as well as original pieces. The Ilanka Cultural Center offers traditional arts and skills still practiced including skin sewing, beadwork; mask, totem, and ivory carving; "putting up" fish and deer; berry-picking and jam-making; and subsistence and commercial fishing.[24]

The Cordova Historical Museum has exhibits on the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, the local fishing industry, and Alaska Natives. They also host a juried art show called "Fish Follies".[23]

Copper River Wild Salmon Festival takes place in July at the Mt. Eyak ski area and includes various events.[21] Salmon Jam Music Festival serves as one of the main events and a fund raiser for Cordova Arts, where local musicians perform followed by professional acts and takes place over the course of Friday and Saturday nights. Taste of Cordova, a wild food and Copper River salmon cook off, usually starts the events. Entries are made with a variety of wild, locally harvested foods and are judged by a panel of guest chefs and food writers. The Alaska Salmon Runs start Saturday morning and include a marathon, half marathon, 10k, 5k, and a 1-mile race on the Copper River Highway.[22] Small Fry activities are educational events for children and families that take place during the races.

The Cordova Iceworm Festival takes place each February and is an attempt to thwart the winter blues. Activities include a parade, talent show, and various competitions such as an oyster shucking contest, ping pong tournament, and a survival suit race.[20]

Various festivals and celebrations take place throughout the year. The Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival, hosted by the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, takes place each year in early May. Millions of migrating shorebirds stop in the area to rest and feed before finishing their journey north. The most numerous species are the western sandpiper, least sandpiper, and dunlin. This is a popular time for avid and casual bird watchers to visit. Activities, workshops, and bird watching tours are held throughout the week.

Arts and culture

The Navy’s only Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the military exercises states, that the extent of the damage and risk to fish, including salmon, are largely unknown. Even though a minimum of 850 kg of hazardous materials were expected to be distributed at an estimated 0.22 lb per nm2 (0.03 kg per km2) per year, the EIS executive summary calls the effects of the exercises "findings of no significant impact" per the National Environmental Policy Act regarding air quality, water resources, plants, invertebrates, and fish, and "no effect" on leatherback turtles and marine mammals. It describes the potential for harm to birds from aircraft strikes as "extremely low and not anticipated". It found "no adverse effects" to cultural resources, commercial shipping, commercial fishing, recreation, tourism, environmental justice or protection of children.[19]

In May 2015 the City Council of Cordova passed a resolution to formally oppose the Navy’s training exercises, saying it found "no scientific information or traditional knowledge demonstrating that the training activities can take place without negatively affecting salmon, whale, bird and other marine habitats".[18] The Eyak Preservation Council has maintained, that harm to marine life includes death from explosions, use of sonar (disorients, kills, and causes beaching of marine animals), and the physical destruction of essential habitat areas.[18]

Cordova has been affected by the U.S. military training exercise Northern Edge, the largest regularly held in Alaska since the 1990s.[17]

Military presence

Commercial fishing is the main industry in Cordova. Half of all households in Cordova have at least one person involved in commercial fishing or processing. The fishing fleet mainly fishes the Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta area. There are various fisheries in the area, the most economically important of which is the salmon fishery. All Pacific salmon species except for the cherry salmon are caught. Fishermen use either a purse seine, drift gillnet, or set gillnet to catch the fish. All fisheries are regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The fisheries in Alaska have a limited entry permit system. The first fish processing plant near Cordova opened in 1887.[15] In 2009 there were 159 purse seine, 511 drift gilnet, and 27 set gillnet permits fished in the Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta area.[16] Wild fish stocks are augmented by hatcheries where fish are produced and released into the ocean and return as adults to be caught by the fishermen.

A view of the Cordova hillside from the boat harbor.


Most official climate data is recorded at the airport, which is 11 miles from town. Temperatures and precipitation vary drastically between the town and the airport, with a notable and common doubling of precipitation in town as compared with the airport.

Cordova has a subarctic climate (Dfc) according to the Köppen climate classification system, with cool temperatures and heavy rainfall caused by orographic lift. Westerly winds coming off the North Pacific Ocean are forced upwards by the Chugach Mountains. This causes the air mass to cool and creates clouds and precipitation. The yearly average rainfall is 89 inches (226 cm) with 125 rainy days out of the year. Snowfall occurs mostly between December and March and an average of 127 inches (323 cm) falls yearly. Winter temperature reach lows of 15 °F (−9.5 °C) and the warmest summer temperatures are around 60 °F (15.5 °C).[14]

Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: Weatherbase[14] April 2010


Cordova is located within the Chugach National Forest at (60.542805, −145.760164).[13] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 75.6 square miles (196 km2), of which, 61.4 square miles (159 km2) of it is land and 14.3 square miles (37 km2) of it is water. The total area is 18.87% water.


The median income for a household in the city was $50,114, and the median income for a family was $65,625. Males had a median income of $40,444 versus $26,985 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,256. About 4.3% of families and 7.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.2% of those under the age of 18 and 6.2% of those 65 and older.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.0% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 25.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 119.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 120.4 males.

There were 958 households out of which 36.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.5% were married couples living together, 8.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.6% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.17.

As of the census of 2000,[12] there were 2,454 people, 958 households, and 597 families residing in the city. The population density was 40.0 per square mile (15.4/km2). There are 1,099 housing units at an average density of 17.9 per square mile (6.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.11% White, 23.6% Native American, 10.07% Asian, 0.41% Black or African American, 1.34% from other races, and 6.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.06% of the population.


In March 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef northwest of Cordova causing one of the most devastating environmental disasters in North America. The Exxon Valdez oil spill severely affected the area's salmon and herring populations leading to a recession of the local fishing-reliant economy as well as disrupting the general ecology of the area.[9] After many years of litigation, 450 million dollars were awarded for compensatory and punitive damages.

Cordova was also once the home of a booming razor clam industry, and between 1916 and the late 1950s it was known as the "Razor Clam Capital of the World".[7] Commercial harvest in the area was as much as 3.5 million pounds. Returns began declining in the late 1950s, presumably due to overharvesting and a large die-off in 1958. The 1964 Good Friday earthquake effectively destroyed the industry; in some areas, the ground was thrust up by as much as six feet, exposing the already depleted clam beds. There has been no commercial harvest in the area since 1988 with the exception of a brief harvest in 1993.[8]

The area around Cordova was historically home to the Eyak, with a population of Chugach to the west, and occasional visits from Ahtna and Tlingit people for trade or battle.[6] The last full-blooded Eyak died in 2008, but the native traditions and lifestyle still has an influence on the local culture. Today Cordova is populated with a mix of races, including Aleut Natives, Filipinos, and Caucasian European – North Americans.


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