As our caravan descends into the heart of Keystone Canyon, we stop to stretch our legs and not arrive to the Bear Paw RV Park before the ‘wagon master’. Cascading down towering Keystone Canyon walls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls empty into the Lowe River on the Richardson Highway.
Farther down the road, the Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery allows us to observe salmon as they return to spawn. The hatchery incubates, rears and releases 230 million Pink Salmon (10 million return), 2 million Coho (100,000 return) and 105,000 King Salmon (10,000 return). The salmon were dead and stinky below our viewing platform.
Once we settled in at the RV Park, Steve dropped a line and caught a nice silver salmon off of jetty at the Port of Valdez next to our Bear Paw RV Park. Port Valdez is an estuary off Valdez Arm in Prince William Sound. It was the jumping off point for the 1898 Alaska Gold Rush. The prospectors and miners didn’t realize the huge glaciers that were in the way of Dawson City when they started their journey towards gold country. In the summer, you would never know that the winter brings enormous snowfall. Valdez is known for its epic snowfall, the average annual snowfall is 325.6 inches with the winter high of 27 and low of 17. Houses are buried up to their eaves in snow and cleared away with massive front-end loaders.
The 800-mile Trans Alaskan pipeline begins in Prudhoe Bay and ends in Valdez. There is a small oil refinery and an average of 11 tankers dock in Valdez a week. When we were on our Glacier and Wildlife Cruise, we passed the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and ongoing clean up.
We explored the fjords and passageways of Prince William Sound on a Glacier and Wildlife Cruise. Meares Glacier is one of the only advancing tidewater glaciers in North America. It is located at the head of the Unakwik Inlet in Prince William Sound. We were a quarter mile from the face of Meares Glacier. We were lucky to be in front of the mile wide jagged wall of ice when all of a sudden there was a sound of thunder. We witnessed a huge glacier calve dropping ice chunks into the water and kicking up waves. Next ‘shooters’, the large submerged ice chunk that caused the wave, shot up to the surface. After that, ice bergs that broke off below the surface then shot up. On the way back to Port, we witnessed a humpback whale breach right in front of us. Luckily Patty was camera ready and was able to send the photo to the Wildlife Cruise company.
We went on the John Hunter Memorial Trail that began in a beautiful coastal spruce forest, merged with the Alyeska Pipeline road and lead to Solomon Lake and its two dams. The steep trail offered spectacular views of the Port of Valdez, mountains, and glaciers.
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