Cordova, Orca Inlet

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Cordova, Orca Inlet

by | Jul 20, 2019

Cordova is a community on the southeast shore of Orca Inlet, opposite Hawkins Island, in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The town was named by Michael J. Heney, builder of the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad in about 1906 when a post office was established here. The town was named after “Puerto Cordova”, the original name for Orca Inlet, after Spanish admiral Luis de Córdova y Córdova. The original name for the inlet was given by Salvador Fidalgo y Lopegarcía, a Spanish explorer who commanded an expedition to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest in 1790.

The area around Cordova was historically home to the Eyak people and was frequently visited by the Chugach as well as Ahtna and Tlingit people. The town had its origin as the railroad terminus and ocean shipping port for copper ore from the Kennecott mine 196 miles (315 km) up the Copper River. Eventually, schools, businesses, a hospital, and utilities were established. After the railroad was completed Cordova became the transportation hub for the ore coming out of Kennecott. In the years 1911 to 1938, more than 200 million tons of copper ore were transported through Cordova to a smelter at Tacoma, Washington.

The Pacific Steam Whaling Company established a cannery near the present site of Cordova in 1889. In 1895 the canning equipment was moved to the location known as Orca, three miles (4.8 km) from Cordova. The Pacific Packing Company owned by Louis Sloss and Company of San Francisco built the Odiak cannery near the present site of Cordova in 1889. The cannery operated for two years and joined the Alaska Packers Association in 1893. The Packers operated the cannery through the 1905 season and sold it in 1906 to the Copper River & Northwestern Railway Company which was preparing to build a railroad from Odiak to the headwaters of the Copper River. Today, Ocean Beauty operates a cannery and fish processing facility for fresh, frozen and canned salmon, salmon caviar, halibut, black cod, pacific cod, and rockfish. Commercial fishing is still the main industry in Cordova. Half of all households in Cordova have at least one person involved in commercial fishing or processing. All five Pacific salmon species are caught, but the most well known are the early run Chinook and sockeye salmon from the Copper River. Wild fish stocks are now augmented by hatcheries in Prince William Sound and on the Copper River. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cordova here:

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