While Cordova served as the supply point for Kennecott and other mines
in the Copper and Chitina river drainages, the development of commercial
fisheries also bolstered the town’s economy and began to play
an important role in the local economy. New canneries were constructed
in the area during the 1910s and 1920s at Fleming Spit, Shepard Point
and Stevens Creek along the east side of Orca Inlet and along the railroad
dock at the north end of Cordova.
The Pioneer Packing Company built the first cannery on Cordova’s
waterfront in 1917. Other canneries also located along the waterfront
in the following two decades, including New England Fish Company and
Western Fisheries. A commercial clam fishery began in 1915 and produced
an average of one million pounds per year.
The City of Cordova constructed a wharf in the 1920’s to support
small boats associated with the canneries that lined the railroad tracks
on the waterfront. Both crab and herring fisheries developed in the
late 1920s and early 19302. In the 1930s, as many as nine canneries
operated in the Cordova area. By 1938, the number of Cordovans directly
employed in the fishing industry totaled five times the number of railroad
Cordova was known as the “razor clam capital of the world”
until 1964 when the Good Friday earthquake wiped out the razor clam
industry. The earthquake permanently raised the ground six feet and
many of the community’s roads.
The town’s economy continues to rely mainly on commercial fishing.
The number of tourist visiting Cordova has increased in recent years,
but the growth of tourism is limited by the absence of a road link to
the rest of Alaska’s highway system. Ferry service twice a week
connects the town to Valdez and Whittier on the highway system. Cordova
is accessible by air from the Mudhole Smith Muncipal Airport at Mile
13 and the 2500 foot gravel strip located on Lake Eyak. Construction
of new residential neighborhoods, grade and high schools, a library
and museum, Prince William Sound community college, hospital, swimming
pool, city hall and post office.