The Dragon Wagon

The Dragon Wagon
The landscaping changes often.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Valdez - Part 3

On our last full day before leaving Valdez, we had beautifully sunny weather.

These are the mountains we never saw in our 2005 visit.

We really liked this sculpture carved from a large cedar log by artist Peter Wolf Toth.

Female duck with ducklings

Cow Parsnip blossums

Valdez - Part 2

While we were in Valdez we took a boat tour down to the Columbia Glacier.

Soon after leaving Valdez we came across some large "rafts" of sea otters.

Salmon season was really getting going and there were a lot of fishing boats working on Prince William Sound.

We passed a popular haul-out for Steller Sea Lions.

Horned Puffin

Tufted Puffins

Columbia Glacier several miles away.

The glacier was calving off lots of ice.  Most of the bigger pieces were trapped between the glacier and the shallow water of the terminal moraine left when the glacier started its most recent retreat.

We found this sea otter hauled out on the ice.  Sea otters don't leave the water often, se we felt lucky to see this.

On the way back to Valdez, the captain spotted these mountain goats fairly low down on the cliffs.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Valdez - Part 1

After exploring the Wrangell-St. Elias roads, we headed down to Valdez.  When we visited Valdez in 2005, it was socked in and we never saw the mountains, so we hoped for better weather during this visit.

On the way down to Valdez the highway passes near to the terminus of the Worthington Glacier.

Closer to Valdez the highway passes by many waterfalls.

Bridalveil Falls

Horsetail Falls

We had heard that there was a brown bear (grizzly) sow with 4 cubs (very uncommon) being seen near the Solomon Gulch Hatchery a few miles from Valdez.  She was often fishing for salmon returning to the fishery.

Also preying on the salmon were many Steller Sea Lions.
The sea lions would often tear the salmon apart by violently swinging their heads.

With salmon being flung about, the sea gulls were always looking for loose bits to eat.

And the Bald Eagles were also looking for an easy meal.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

McCarthy and Kennecott

The other road into the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve ends near the towns of McCarthy and Kennecott near the Kennicott Glacier and river.  Kennecott was the site of extremely rich copper ore deposits which were mined between 1911 and 1938.  To develop the mines, a railroad was built from the seaport at Cordova into what was then a very remote part of Alaska.  McCarthy developed into a commercial center near the mine company town of Kennecott.  The mining company and town were named after the nearby Kennicott Glacier and River, but the spelling was changed (possibly in error).  The current dirt road from the town of Chitina, Alaska, to the Kennicott River, near McCarthy, mostly follows the old railroad roadbed.

A view of the glacial silt laden Copper River

The Kuskulana Bridge.  This bridge was constructed as a railroad bridge with just the rails and no guard rails on the sides.  For the road, this was converted to a single lane auto bridge by putting down a plank decking and adding guard rails along the sides.

View from the middle of the bridge

A swan with a couple of cygnets along the road.

Because of the rugged terrain, over 15% of the railroad was built on trestles.  This is what is left of the Gilahina trestle.

A cow moose we came upon on the road

The public road ends at the Kennicott River.  To reach McCarthy and Kennecott, you have to walk across this footbridge and catch a local shuttle on the other side.

The Kennicott River

The Kennicott Glacier.  Down at the lower end the glacier ice is covered with dirt, gravel and rocks and doesn't look much like a glacier.

The Kennecott mines were located up on the mountainsides above the town.  Cable tramways brought the ore down to the mill where it was crushed and sorted.  The 14 story mill building is said to be the tallest wooden building in North America.

The top level of the mill where the tramway ore buckets arrived from the mines.

A couple of other views around town.

A waterfall in the middle of town.