This month I had the honor and pleasure to visit Cordova, Alaska, home of my favorite wild salmon, Copper River Salmon (king, sockeye and coho). I've been eating and posting about Copper River Salmon for years now, so imagine how excited I was to be invited to visit Cordova as a guest of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association to learn all about how it is caught, handled and processed and to get to see first hand all that is involved at getting my beloved Copper River Salmon from Cordova to my dinner table here in Atlanta. There's so much more involved than I could have ever imagined.
Now, a little bit about Cordova. Cordova is a quaint small fishing port town located on the southeastern shores of Prince William Sound. It boasts a year round population of 2,200. This number swells to approximately 3,500 residents from May through September when fishermen that live in other places (Washington, Oregon, etc.) leave their hometowns to fish for Copper River Salmon. There are only 531 permits/licenses available to fish for Copper River Salmon and they aren't cheap. The current cost for a permit to fish is $231,000; and that doesn't include the cost of your boat, equipment, insurance, etc. It can cost upwards of $400,000 just to have the privilege to fish for Copper River Salmon! Quite mind boggling, isn't it? As a commercial fisherman, you have to love to fish because it's not an easy job. The fishermen go out for weeks at a time over the almost 5-month long fishing season from May through September. They are away from their families and children for long periods of time. Many have been fishing for more than 40 years and are 3rd and 4th generation fishermen. They love what they do; it's in their blood.
I found the people of Cordova to be warm, friendly and welcoming as well as extremely passionate about what they do (please see special thanks at the end of this post)
. They are independent people that hunt and fish to feed their own families. While most of us simply run to the grocery store to purchase food to feed our families; Cordovans generally hunt, fish and gather their own, such as deer, moose, elk, salmon, halibut, cod or wild berries and mushrooms of all varieties that grow wild in abundance. I was very impressed that given their extremely remote location which can only be reached by plane or ferry, how self reliant they are. Their other groceries and supplies are sent over each week by barge. This town lives to fish and fishes to live. It is their livelihood. If you live there, you either fish or support those that fish in one way or another, whether it be as a fishwife (or some cases, fishhusband) or through your work that's in some way connected to sustaining fishing such as a hatchery, processing plant, cannery, watershed management, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, etc. They are fiercely protective about their pristine environment and work very hard to make sure it stays that way and that it doesn't become overfished. There is an exceptionally strong sense of community and pride in Cordova where everyone works together towards a common goal to preserve their heritage and livelihood.
I could go on and on because I learned so much during my visit to Cordova, things that I will never forget, but I'll stop for now and share some photos from my trip. I never really knew what wilderness was until I saw Alaska. It is such a vast area of unspoiled beauty and nature not yet destroyed by us humans. I will never forget Cordova and am glad I took so many photos while there (over 1,100). Don't worry, I won't share all of them...but here are some of my favorites. Since this is a food blog, I will start with one of my favorite meals while there, Copper River Salmon w/ Citrus Salsa served at the Reluctant Fisherman Inn
. It was delicious! Enjoy!
This is where I stayed in Cordova, the Orca Adventure Lodge (converted to a lodge from its former life as Orca Cannery)
|View of the lodge from the fishing boat that we were on|
|View of the inlet from my room|
|Most of the original buildings still exist on the property, here's one with the "Orca Cannery" sign|
|For perspective, this is where I stayed; look at how it's tucked on the edge of these huge mountains (I took this photo from our fishing boat trip)...now you know why I didn't have much phone or internet service!|
Even though it rained a good bit of the time there, I was still able to get some beautiful photos of the views across the inlet at the lodge.
Here are some photos from a long walk my daughter and I took from the lodge towards town on a sunny day
|The buildings dotting the shore are canneries.|
|Recognize this boat? It's the Northwestern from Discovery's Deadliest Catch. We passed it walking and again later on while out on another fishing boat.|
|We also passed this "here comes the bride boat"...there was a wedding held at the lodge while we were there and this is how the wedding party arrived...via the family's fishing boat!|
We had a day long Glacier Tour with a long drive and airboat ride to the Copper River Delta to see Child's Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge
|Million Dollar Bridge|
While at Child's Glacier, we had the opportunity to enjoy a freshly caught Copper River Salmon that was cleaned, filleted, and grilled as we watched...it was delicious!
A Few Photos of our Ride with a Commercial Fisherman On His Bowpicker (we saw sea lions, sea otter and bald eagles)
|John Bocci, Commercial Fisherman took us out on his bowpicker|
|4 sea lions sunning themselves|
|Cute little sea otter|
|Bald Eagle sitting on top of the tree|
|Our ride to go salmon fishing on another outing (4 women, 2 men and a baby)|
|A glimpse of the river we were salmon fishing at|
|We toured the Ocean Beauty Seafood plant where Copper River Salmon is processed|
|We hiked Heney Ridge Trail in the Chugach National Forest (w/ Michelle Dockins)|
Copper River Wild Salmon Festival
|One of the beautiful salmon dishes we judged at the Taste of Cordova|
We drove out to Power Creek Hydroelectric Plant to see Copper River Salmon spawning
|Notice the beautiful blue-green color of the glacial water|
*SPECIAL THANKS to the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association (particularly Christa, Erica and Amanda...you ladies are the best); Jeff Bailey, Rich Wheeler (and son Hugh), RJ & Barclay K., John Bocci, Curly H., Michelle Dockins, Korey Vargo, Ray Coffey, Kristin (Watershed Project), Elena (Alaska Fish & Game), Michael Clutter (Ocean Beauty Seafoods), James W. (Solstice), Kate (narrator on our Child's Glacier trip), the staff at Orca Adventure Lodge and the scores of other folks in Cordova that made our trip there so special. In closing I will paraphrase a quote from Maya Angelou..."People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Cordova...you made us feel VERY special by graciously opening up your lives and beautiful world to us! Lastly, to the blogger girls I had the privilege of accompanying...Gina (Running to the Kitchen), Michelle & baby Cullen (The Runner's Plate) and Savannah (Primal Revolutions) as well as my daughter Jennifer; I enjoyed every moment we spent together learning about Cordova and hope our paths will cross again some day. Final thanks to Michelle's husband Craig for making our 9 hour layover in Anchorage an opportunity to see Anchorage...as well as a MOOSE! Big thanks to ALL!
|Copper River Salmon spawning|
#copperriverwild, #copperriversalmon, #knowyourfisherman, #100daysofsalmon, #soundsalmon