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Five Days in Cordova




Introduction

Throughout the year, Cordova, Alaska, draws me like a magnet; and when I see Copper River wild salmon on sale at my local supermarket, the longing to go there again is even stronger.

In 2004, I spent a summer vacation there. I will always remember my experiences then....

On that occasion, I arrived in Cordova on what for Cordovans was a very, very hot day, but seemed quite normal to me. The temperature was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and for Cordova, located in Alaska's Copper River Delta, that was indeed hot. The atmosphere was also hazy, due to a forrest fire.

My flight from Seattle, Washington, was about three hours long, and included a short stop at Anchorage. Flight time from Anchorage to Cordova was about 35 minutes. Visitors to Cordova must travel there by boat, ferry, or plane—there are no roads or rails to Cordova.

Be sure to check out the “References” section for links to maps, regional & local information, historical & cultural studies, and rafting information. Note: many images appear hazy due to the forest fire.

Day One

My first good look at Cordova was from Ski Hill, which overlooks Cordova, its harbor, and Orca Inlet to the west, and to the east, Eyak Lake and the Copper River Highway (which passes the airport).

Blueberries were ready for picking on the mountain slope. The ubiquitous Bunchberry plants dotted the slope with their bright-red berries.


Cordova from Ski Hill

Cordova from Ski Hill

Harbor

Harbor

Bunchberry

Bunchberry

Eyak Lake

Eyak Lake

After leaving Ski Hill, there was still time for a short hike up the Eyak River Trail. From the trail, the view of the mountains was spectacular.


View from the Eyak River Trail

View from the Eyak River Trail

Later, I hiked along a nearby stream through the dense, moss-carpeted, rain forest. Spawning salmon filled the stream from bank to bank.

From the home of my Alaskan relatives, overlooking the stream, I watched the sunset paint Heney Pk with warm orange-red tones while I listened to the music of the jumping salmon in the water below.


Forest Trail

Forest Trail

Moss

Moss

Devil's Club

Devil's Club

Reflections

Reflections

Going Home

Going Home

Salmon Bank to Bank

Salmon Bank to Bank

Home

Home

Heney Pk

Heney Pk

Day Two

The next day, day two of my vacation, was again hot (for Cordovans, that is), so I spent the day with my friends picnicking and swimming at the Alaganic Slough Recreation Site, located in the Copper River Delta.

For children, there is nothing to beat a mix of sand and water on a hot day; and for Licorice, the Labrador retriever that accompanied us, the only problem was coaxing the humans into throwing a stick into the water. Our arms gave out long before Licorice tired of retrieving the stick for another throw.


Licorice

Licorice

Picnic

Picnic

Sand and Water

Sand and Water

Sand Tracks

Sand Tracks

Alaganik Slough

Alaganik Slough

Dusky Canada Geese

Dusky Canada Geese

Later in the day, I hiked to Crater Lake. It is 2.4 miles to Crater lake and is a moderate hike. The trail climbs rapidly through a forest of spruce and hemlock. The plant life around the lake is varied and includes the dwarf blueberry with its sweet, delicious berries.

From Crater Lake, the view of Orca Inlet and Orca Bay was spectacular.


On the Way to Crater Lake

On the Way to Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Dwarf Blueberries

Dwarf Blueberries

Enjoying the View

Enjoying the View

View from Crater Lake

View from Crater Lake

Day Three

Day three of my vacation was reserved for a trip to Sheridan Lake and Glacier with the Alaska River Rafters. A bus brought us to the trailhead that would take us to the lake. The rafts were soon hitched up for the trip to the water and participants selected their waterproof boots.

A short lecture about bears prepared us in case we met any. We then began the short hike to the launch site. Along the way, we were treated to magnificent mountain scenery and lovely flowering plants. We also listened to a short lecture on the glacier and moraine.

After putting on our survival gear and listening to raft-safety instructions, we boarded the rafts and were soon underway.

We were awed by the flower-covered slopes, Sheridan Glacier, and towering mountains.

On our way to the river rapids, ice clogging the route needed to be removed by our guides to allow the rafts to pass and the rafts had to be pulled over some shalow spots. Once in clear water, we had to put our cameras into waterproof bags and hang on for our trip through the rapids at the outlet of the lake.

Sadly, the Alaska River Rafters is no longer in business.


Alaska River Rafters

Alaska River Rafters

Boarding the Bus

Boarding the Bus

Trying on Boots

Trying on Boots

Lecture: Bears

Lecture: Bears

Sheridan Panorama

Sheridan Panorama

Lecture: Moraine and Glacier

Lecture: Moraine and Glacier

Hiking to the Lake

Hiking to the Lake

Lecture: Survival Gear

Lecture: Survival Gear

Putting on Survival Gear

Putting on Survival Gear

Lecture: Raft Safety

Raft Safety

Into the Raft

Into the Raft

Underway

Lecture: Underway

Pulling the Raft Over Shallows

Pulling the Raft Over Shallows

Clearing Blocking Ice

Clearing Blocking Ice

Sheridan Lake and Glacier

Sheridan Lake and Glacier

In the Lake

In the Lake

Last View Before Running the River

Last View Before Running the River

Day Four

On day four, our small family group traveled along the Copper River Highway to Childs Glacier.

Although four of the five glaciers feeding the Copper River Delta were named after Civil War Generals—Sherman, Scott, Sheridan, and Miles—Childs Glacier was not.

In 1884, Lieutenant William R. Abercrombie, who headed the first United States military exploration of the Copper River, named Childs Glacier after George Washington Childs of Philadelphia.

The glacier is some 300 feet high and is possibly the most active glacier in Alaska. Visitors can often observe huge masses of ice calving from the glacier into the river below.

On the drive back to Cordova, I stopped to photograph two beautiful trumpeter swans, which were standing on a beaver lodge. Later, I stopped again to photograph a family of swans, which included three cygnets.


Childs Glacier and Copper River

Childs Glacier and Copper River

Childs Glacier

Childs Glacier

Childs Glacier from the Viewing Area

Childs Glacier from the Viewing Area

River Beauty

River Beauty

Trumpeter Swans

Into the Raft

Day Five

On my last day in Cordova, day five, I packed my camera, water, and some food and headed for the Power Creek Trail. The trail is 4.2 miles long and ends at the Power Creek Cabin.

Along the way, I stopped to photograph the beaver dams and lodges—and to sample the wild Alaska blueberries.

The end of the trail was worth the long hike. The cabin was beautiful, and faced towering mountain peaks. From the covered deck of the cabin, I could only sit back and marvel at the mountain scenery.


Power Creek Trail

Power Creek Trail

On the Trail

On the Trail

Power Creek Power Plant

Power Creek Power Plant

Blueberries

Blueberries

Beaver Dam

Beaver Dam

Beaver Lodges

Beaver Lodges

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

Power Creek Cabin

Power Creek Cabin

View from Power Creek Cabin

View from Power Creek Cabin

After returning to Cordova, there was still enough time for a short hike along the Heney Ridge Trail.

The trail begins on the edge of the Orca Inlet near Bluff Pt at Hartney Bay and winds through dense forest. For the photographer, using a tripod is a must for taking sharp photographs in the dim light. I was particularly interested in photographing the mosses and mushrooms on the forest floor.

The hike ended my 5-day summer vacation in Cordova.


Clouds Over Heney Ridge

Clouds Over Heney Ridge

Heney Ridge Trailhead

Heney Ridge Trailhead

Staircase

Staircase

Color in the Moss

Color in the Moss

Hiking Through the Woods

Hiking Through the Woods

View from the Trail

View from the Trail

Stream

Stream

Home Away From Home

Durning my vacation in Cordova, I stayed in a wonderful apartment that included a colorful garden. Between my hikes, I spent time photographing the flowers and insects in the garden.


Enchanted Garden

Enchanted Garden

Bee on Flower

Bee on Flower

About the Images

The images were taken with a Canon EOS 10D. For most of the images, I used a 16-35mm lens. Some of the images were taken using a 28-135mm lens. Although some shots were taken on a tripod, most were hand held. The images were taken in the "raw" format. All images received some out-of-camera processing in Photoshop. The image of Licorice is a composite of two images: one image was of Licorice and the other of the Alaganic Slough Recreation Site.

References



Royce Tivel