Cut off from Alaska’s road system (for now), Cordova is slightly inconvenient and somewhat expensive to get to. Perhaps that’s why this picturesque outpost, spread thinly between Orca Inlet and Eyak Lake, and overshadowed by Mt Eccles, can still claim to be one of the Alaskan coast’s truly endangered species: a fishing village that hasn’t sold its soul to tourism. That’s all the more reason to visit.
Though not set in the same sort of mountain-thronged kingdom as Valdez, Cordova is more appealing: a quaint cluster of rainforest-rotted homes climbing up a pretty hillside overlooking the busy harbor. Populating the place are folks who, you can’t help thinking, exemplify what’s best about Alaska: ruggedly independent freethinkers, clad in rubber boots and driving rusted-out Subarus, unconcerned with image or pretense, and friendly as hell. They seem to revel in their isolation. In recent years, pro-development politicians have proposed connecting the community to the state highway system. Judging from the ubiquity of ‘No Road’ bumper stickers in town, it’s a prospect the locals abhor.
Visitors will be enthralled by what lies beyond the town limits. Just outside the city, along the Copper River Hwy, is one of the largest wetlands in Alaska, with more than 40 miles of trails threading through spectacular glaciers, alpine meadows and the remarkable Copper River Delta. Into that delta run some of the world’s finest salmon, and fishermen here turn them into what may be the fattest and finest fillets you’ll ever enjoy.
Cordova’s main north–south drag is officially 1st St, but is often called Main St – the names are used interchangeably. 1st St becomes the Copper River Hwy as it leaves town, connecting Cordova to the airport at Mile 12, continuing another 40 miles to Childs Glacier and Million Dollar Bridge.