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Valdez, Alaska

Valdez, like so many Alaska towns, is a Gold Rush community. It is located on the eastern side of Prince William Sound. Like other Alaska towns, its history is also marked by calamities. The town’s founders purported to have a superior route to the Klondike gold fields, which proved to be a fraud that cost many prospectors’ lives. When a road was built from Fairbanks in 1899, the ice-free port of Valdez finally found its use. In 1907, two rival railway companies fell out over proposed connections to the rich Kennicott copper mines, and a dramatic gunfight ensued. The rail line was later established at Cordova. On Good Friday in 1964, Valdez was struck by a huge marine landslide that resulted in a 30-foot tsunami. By bad luck, 32 men women and children were on the waterfront dock for the unloading of a freighter, and wrre lost when the dock collapsed. The building of the TransAlaska Pipeline in the 1970s secured a new economic boom for Valdez, but inadvertently led to the disastrous grounding of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez which released a huge volume of oil into Prince William Sound. Today the fishing industry still uses Valdez, and recreation and heli-skiing are important portions of the economy.