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Valdez, Alaska

Valdez is a city located in Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 4,036.



Location of Valdez, Alaska

Valdez is located at 61°7'23" North, 146°18'19" West (61.122947, -146.305178)1.

Valdez is located at the head of a deep fjord in the northeast section of Prince William Sound in Alaska. It is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains, which are heavily glaciated. Valdez is the northernmost port in North America that is ice-free year-round.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 717.6 km² (277.1 mi²). 574.9 km² (222.0 mi²) of it is land and 142.7 km² (55.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 19.88% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 4,036 people, 1,494 households, and 1,042 families residing in the city. The population density is 7.0/km² (18.2/mi²). There are 1,645 housing units at an average density of 2.9/km² (7.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 83.62% White, 0.42% Black or African American, 7.19% Native American, 2.18% Asian, 0.45% Pacific Islander, 1.41% from other races, and 4.73% from two or more races. 3.96% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 1,494 households out of which 41.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% are married couples living together, 8.4% have a female householder with no husband present, and 30.2% are non-families. 21.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 2.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.66 and the average family size is 3.15.

In the city the population is spread out with 29.7% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 26.4% from 45 to 64, and 3.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 107.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 107.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $66,532, and the median income for a family is $74,188. Males have a median income of $56,932 versus $31,855 for females. The per capita income for the city is $27,341. 6.2% of the population and 5.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 5.3% of those under the age of 18 and 11.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Valdez is a fishing port, both for commercial and sport fishing. Freight moves through Valdez bound for the interior of Alaska. Sightseeing of the marine life and glaciers, together with both deep-sea and freshwater fishing, support a tourist industry in Valdez. The oil from the Trans-Alaska pipeline is loaded onto ships at Valdez.

Valdez is connected to the interior of Alaska by the Richardson Highway by land as well and by the Alaska ferry system by water. Just north of Valdez on the highway is Thompson Pass, which has spectacular waterfalls and glaciers next to the highway. Thompson Pass is also known for treacherous driving conditions during the winter.


The port of Valdez was named in 1790 by the Spanish explorer Don Salvador Fidalgo after the Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y Basán. The current Alaskan prononunciation is Val-DEEZ instead of Valdés. Because the Port of Valdez was an ice-free port, a town developed there in 1898. Some steamship companies promoted the Valdez Glacier Trail as a better way to reach the Klondike gold fields or as a better way to find new gold fields in Alaska than the route from Skagway. The prospectors that believed the promotion found that they had been deceived. The glacier trail was twice as long and steep as reported and many died on it.

The Richardson Highway was built in 1899 and the early 1900s to connect Valdez to the interior of Alaska. It was a summer-only highway until 1950, when it became a year-round route.

The city was destroyed in the 1964 Alaska Earthquake. Liquefaction of the glacial silt which formed the city's foundation led to massive underwater landslides, causing a section of the city to break off and sink into the sea. The underwater soil displacement caused a tsunami 30 feet high to slam the coast. In Valdez, 32 people lost their lives, most of those children on the city dock who were meeting a supply ship. The original site was abandoned; the Army Corps of Engineers transported 60 surviving houses to firmer foundations, restablishing the city at its present site.

From 1975-1977, the Trans-Alaska pipeline was built to carry oil from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields in northern Alaska to a terminal in Valdez, the nearest ice-free port, where the oil is loaded onto tanker ships for transport. The construction and operation of the pipeline and terminal boosted the economy of Valdez.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred as the oil tanker Exxon Valdez was leaving the terminal at Valdez full of oil. The spill occurred at Bligh Reef, about 40 km (25 miles) from Valdez. Although the oil did not reach Valdez, it destroyed much of the marine life in the surrounding area. The clean-up of the oil caused a short-term boost to the economy of Valdez but contributed to the bankruptcy of the neighboring Chugach Corporation, which had partially depended on the sea for its livelihood.

Regions of Alaska
Alaskan Bush | Interior | North Slope | Panhandle | South Central | Tanana Valley
Largest Cities
Anchorage | Barrow | Bethel | Fairbanks | Homer | Juneau | Kenai | Ketchikan | Kodiak | Kotzebue | Nome | Palmer | Petersburg | Seward | Sitka | Unalaska | Valdez | Wasilla
Boroughs and Census Areas
Aleutians East | Aleutians West | Anchorage | Bethel | Bristol Bay | Denali | Dillingham | Fairbanks North Star | Haines | Juneau | Kenai Peninsula | Ketchikan Gateway | Kodiak Island | Lake and Peninsula | Matanuska-Susitna | Nome | North Slope | Northwest Arctic | Prince of Wales - Outer Ketchikan | Sitka | Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon | Southeast Fairbanks | Valdez-Cordova | Wade Hampton | Wrangell-Petersburg | Yakutat | Yukon-Koyukuk

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Last updated: 02-07-2005 15:45:43
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55