Current Population: 2,316
Incorporation: Home Rule City
Location: 60.542780N -145.757500W in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area
School District: Cordova City School District
State of Alaska Community Online Database: Cordova (click here)
Cordova is a community on Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska. The town sits on Orca Inlet, in the southeastern portion of the Sound. With Eyak Mountain rising above the town, Cordova is surrounded by untamed wilderness and naturally protected waters. It lies 52 air miles southeast of Valdez and 150 miles southeast of Anchorage. The area encompasses 61.4 square miles of land and 14.3 square miles of water.
The areas has historically been home to the Alutiiq and migrating Athabascan and Tlingit Natives who call themselves Eyaks. Alaskan Natives of other descents also settled in Cordova. Orca Inlet was orginally named "Puerto Cordova" by Don Salvador Fidalgo in 1790. Michael Heney, builder of the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad, gave Cordova its present name in 1906, and the city was formed in 1909.
One of the first producing oilfields in Alaska was discovered in 1902 at Katalla, 47 miles southeast of Cordova. The Katalla oil field produced until 1933, when it was destroyed by fire. Cordova served as the railroad terminus and ocean shipping port for copper ore from the Kennecott Mine up the Copper River. The first trainload of ore was loaded onto the steamship "Northwestern," bound for a smelter in Tacoma, Washington, in April 1911. The Bonanza-Kennecott Mines operated until 1938 and yielded over $200 million in copper, silver, and gold. Fishing became the economic base in the early 1940s.
Cordova is accessible by plane or boat. The Merle K. "Mudhole" Smith Airport at mile 13 is state-owned and operated, with a 7,500' long asphalt runway and a 1,899' long gravel crosswind runway. Jet service is scheduled daily; air taxi and cargo services are available. Cordova Municipal Airport, state-owned and city-operated, has a 1,800' gravel runway. Float planes land at the Lake Eyak seaplane base or the small boat harbor.
The Alaska Marine Highway System provides scheduled ferry service, connecting Cordova with the communities of Whittier (gateway to Anchorage), Valdez, Tatitlek, and Chenega. Barge service to Cordova is year-round.
Local roads are maintained by the State Department of Transportation and the City Public Works Department. A 48-mile gravel road (Copper River Highway) provides access to the Copper River Delta to the east, although due to recent flood damage, the road can not be traveled to its terminus at the historic Million Dollar Bridge.
Cordova is linked directly to the North Pacific Ocean shipping lanes through the Gulf of Alaska and received year-round barge service.
Cordova rests in a temperate rain forest; average annual precipitation is 167 inches and average annual snowfall, 80 inches. Winter temperatures average 20 degrees Farenheit. Summer averages 55 degrees Fahrenheit.